Which Chemo Drugs Cause Hair Loss

which chemo drugs cause hair loss
Photo Credit: needpix.com

Chemo or chemotherapy is one of the methods used in the treatment of cancer. When a person undergoes chemotherapy, the chances of losing their hair is real. Most times, it is the most dreaded side effects of chemotherapy.

Not everyone who undergoes chemotherapy loses their hair since some of the drugs used in the process do not cause total hair loss. While some might cause the thinning of hair, some chemo drugs do not have any effects on the hair at all.

Some of these chemo drugs might cause hair loss only on the head. Some others might cause total loss of the hair on the body including the eyebrows, eyelashes, pubic hairs, and hairs on the hands and legs.

Buy FocusCare Scarves for Chemo Patients on Amazon

How Does Chemotherapy Cause Hair Loss?

Since all cancer cells grow faster than normal cells of the body, the chemo drugs target these cells that are dividing rapidly and cause them to die. Unfortunately, there are also some other cells that grow fast in the body.

The cells that are affected by the chemo drugs are the hair follicles, the cells of the alimentary canal, and the bone marrow. The effect of chemotherapy then causes side effects.

Anemia and low blood count might occur due to the death of the cells of the bone marrow. Nausea and vomiting might take place due to the death of the cells of the digestive organs. Hair loss will likely occur due to the death of the keratinocytes in the hair follicles.

The severity of these side effects depends on factors like

  • The dose and frequency of the therapy
  • The route through which the drug was administered
  • The types of chemo drugs used.
Buy Migraine Gel Full Head Coverage Ice Hat on Amazon

Which Chemo Drugs Can Cause Hair Loss?

These chemotherapy drugs also known as anti-neoplastic drugs are most likely to cause total hair loss when used. They are:

Etoposide

This drug is used in the cancer of the testicles, lung, bladder, brain, nerves, stomach, uterus, and white blood cells. It is classified as a plant alkaloid.

This drug can be taken as a tablet or intravenously. It is known to cause inflammations of the vein through which it is administered.

The side effects of this drug are hair loss, chemotherapy-induced menopause, low platelet count, low white blood cell count, low blood pressure, vomiting, diarrhea, mouth sores, poor appetite, numbness of the limbs, and nausea.

Adriamycin

The generic name of this drug is doxorubicin and it is used to treat cancer that affects the lungs, breast, ovaries, bladder, nerves, stomach, bones, joints, and kidneys. It can also be used to treat a certain type of leukemia.

This drug is given as an infusion in the vein and is not used for people with anemia, heart diseases, and liver diseases. It might be used in combination with other drugs.

It has some side effects such as hair loss, hives, dizziness, headache, nausea, missed menstrual periods, bleeding, low white blood cell count, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and flu symptoms.

Irinotecan

This is the generic name of the drug Camptosar. It is classified as a plant alkaloid and is administered intravenously. It is used in the treatment of cancer of the colon and rectum.

It is also an irritant and inflames the veins it passes through. The side effects of this drug are hair loss, early diarrhea (accompanied by flu-like symptoms), late diarrhea, weakness, nausea, low blood count, vomiting, weight loss, fever, poor appetite.

The following side effects such as headache, insomnia, swollen feet, constipation, mouth sores, flatulence, heartburn, rashes, and cough might be experienced also.

Cytoxan

The generic name of this drug is Cyclophosphamide and it is used in the treatment of cancer of the breast, eyes, brain, blood, ovaries, and bone marrow. It is classified as an alkylating agent.

The side effects of the use of Cytoxan are temporary hair loss, low blood counts, nausea, nail discoloration, poor appetite, diarrhea, infertility, bleeding, and mouth sores.

Cerubidine

The generic name of this drug is Daunorubicin. It is used in the treatment of leukemia. It is given as an intravenous injection and this drug does not exist as a pill.

The amount of this drug administered depends on the person’s weight, height, underlying health problems, and the type of cancer.

The side effects of this drug include total loss of hair on all body parts, pain on the drug’s site of administration, colored urine, nausea, low blood count, vomiting, mouth sores, skin and nail discoloration, diarrhea, and infertility.

This drug might also cause tissue damage and blisters if it leaks off the veins and enters the muscles. It might also interfere with the normal function of the heart and also reduce the ability of the body to make red blood cells.

Ifosfamide

This drug is used in the treatment of cancer of the testicles, soft tissues, white cells, bladder, cervix, lungs, head, and neck.

This drug is classified as an alkylating agent and is administered intravenously. The amount of the drug to be used depends on the person’s weight, height, type of cancer, and other underlying health conditions.

The side effects of Ifosfamide include hair loss, low blood count, poor appetite, nausea, bloody urine, confusion, dizziness, hallucination, and risk of developing leukemia.

Taxol

The generic name for this drug is Paclitaxel and it is classified as a plant alkaloid. It is used in the treatment of the cancer of the breast, lungs, ovaries, skin, lymph nodes, bladder, and prostate.

It is administered by an infusion of the vein and can cause inflammations on the veins through which it passes.

The side effects of the drug include hair loss, joint and muscle pain, low blood count, diarrhea, nausea, fever, mouth sores, peripheral neuropathy, low blood pressure, swollen feet, hives, skin, and nail discoloration.

Taxotere

The generic name of this drug is Docetaxel and it is classified as a plant alkaloid. It is used in the treatment of cancer of the breast, lung, stomach, head, neck, and prostate.

It is administered intravenously after taking a corticosteroid prior to the therapy. The side effects of the drug include hair loss, anemia, low white blood cell count, diarrhea, nail and skin coloration, mouth sores, nausea, numbness of the limbs, fatigue, and fluid retention.

Ellence

The generic name of this drug is Epirubicin and is classified as an anthracycline antitumor antibiotic. It is used in the treatment of cancer of the breast.

It is administered through an infusion in the vein. The drug is considered as vesicant can cause tissue damage and blisters when it leaks out of the vein.

The side effects of the drug are total loss of hair on the body, colored urine, nausea, low blood count, pain, mouth sores, fatigue, conjunctivitis, diarrhea, chemotherapy-induced menopause, vomiting, nail and skin coloration.

Navelbine

This drug is used in the treatment of cancer of the breast, ovaries, and non-small lung cancer. It is administered intravenously only, and it is also a vesicant. This means that it can cause tissue damage and blisters when it leaks out of the veins.

The side effects of this drug are hair loss, low blood counts, weakness, constipation, nausea, pain around the area of administration, diarrhea, numbness of fingers, and toes.

Topotecan

This is the generic name of the drug, Hycamtin. It is classified as a topoisomerase 1 inhibitor. It is used in the treatment of ovarian cancer and some types of lung cancer such as small cell lung cancer. It can be given orally or intravenously.

The side effects of this drug are hair loss, low blood counts, diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, headache, fever, bone pain, stomach pain, poor appetite, weakness, mouth sores, rash, and cough.

Ixabepilone

This is the generic name for the drug, Ixempra. It is classified as an antimicrotubule agent. It is used in the treatment of breast cancer. It is administered through an infusion in a vein.

The side effects of the use of ixabepilone are hair loss, joint pain, numbness of the limbs, muscle pain, nausea, low white blood cell count, vomiting, mouth sores, fatigue, constipation, poor appetite, headache, stomach ache, and diarrhea.

Vincristine

This drug is classified as a plant alkaloid and is used in the treatment of acute leukemia, cancer of the thyroid, brain, nerves, and skeletal muscles.

It is administered through an intravenous injection or infusion and does not exist as a pill. It is a vesicant, which means that it can cause tissue damage or blisters when it leaks out of the vein.

The side effects of this drug are partial or complete hair loss, low blood count, constipation, weight loss, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, mouth sores, poor appetite, and numbness of the limbs.

Buy Headcovers Unlimited Mens Chemo Caps on Amazon

Chemo Drugs That Can Cause Hair Thinning

These drugs might cause hair loss but sometimes they do not. They might cause hair thinning and slight hair loss.

Cytarabine

This is the generic name for the drug, Cytosar-U. It is classified as an antimetabolite. It is used in the treatment of leukemia, cancer of the brain, and the spinal cord.

It is administered through an infusion in the vein and this drug does not exist as a pill. The side effects are hair thinning, headache, nausea, low blood count, mouth sores, poor appetite, diarrhea, eye pain, skin rash, dizziness, and flu symptoms.

5-FU

This is a generic name for the drug, Adrucil. It is classified as an antimetabolite. It is used in the treatment of cancer of the breast, anus, pancreas, colon, rectum, stomach, head, thymus, neck, liver, skin, cervix, and bladder.

The side effects of this drug are hair thinning, diarrhea, nausea, mouth sores, low blood count, metallic taste in the mouth, poor appetite, watery eyes, dry skin, nail discoloration, and skin rashes.

Bleomycin

This is the generic name for the drug, Blenoxane. It is classified as an antitumor antibiotic. It is used in the treatment of cancer of the ovary, skin, and lymph nodes. It is also used to treat the buildup of fluid between the lung and the chest.

The side effects of this drug are fever, hair loss, thickening of the nails, nausea, weight loss, poor appetite, mouth sores, inflammation of the veins, and lung diseases.

Gemzar

This drug is classified as an antimetabolite and is used in the treatment of cancer of the bladder, pancreas, lungs, breast, ovaries, and skin.

The side effects of the use of this drug are hair loss, skin rash, flu-like symptoms, nausea, low blood count, poor appetite, vomiting, fatigue, bloody urine, diarrhea, mouth sores, shortness of breath, and insomnia.

Vinblastine

This is a generic name for the drug, Alkanan-AQ. It is classified as a plant alkaloid. It is used in the treatment of cancer of the breast, head, neck, bladder, skin, lungs, and testicles.

It is given through an infusion on the vein or injection. There is no pill form of this drug. The drug is a vesicant since it causes tissue damage and blisters when it leaks out of the vein.

The side effects of the use of this drug are hair thinning or loss, low blood count, fatigue,  nausea, poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and the numbness of the limbs.

Busulphan

This drug is classified as an alkylating agent and is used in the treatment of leukemia. It can be given as an infusion in the vein or as a pill.

The side effects of the use of this drug are hair thinning, low blood count, mouth sores, poor appetite, diarrhea, infertility, skin discoloration, itching, skin rash, and fatigue. Long-term use of the drug might expose the patient to the risk of developing leukemia.

Thiotepa

This is the generic name for the drug, TESPA. It is classified as an alkylating agent and is given intravenous, intracavitary, and intravesical infusions.

It is used in the treatment of the cancer of the breast, bladder, ovary, and lymphocytes. The side effects include hair loss, low blood counts, nausea, mouth sores, bleeding, skin rashes, and vomiting.

Lomustine

This is the generic name for the drug, CCNU. It is classified as an alkylating agent and is taken orally as a pill.

The dug is used in the treatment of cancer of the brain, lymphocytes, lungs, colon, and the skin. The side effects are hair thinning or loss, low blood counts, nausea, mouth sores, vomiting, poor appetite, infertility, and maybe kidney damage.

Melphalan

This is the generic name for the drug, Megace Alkeran, given as a pill. It is used in the treatment of the cancer of the skin, ovaries, breasts, skeletal muscles, and nerve cells.

The side effects of this drug are rare hair loss, low blood count, nausea, mouth sores, vomiting, diarrhea, infertility, and the risk of developing leukemia.

Buy Brilliant Special Soft Toothbrush on Amazon

Other chemotherapy drugs that rarely cause hair loss are

  • Carmustine
  • Mitomycin C
  • Paraplatin
  • Methotrexate
  • Procarbazine
  • Mitoxantrone
  • Procarbazine
  • Platinol
  • 6-Mercaptopurine
  • Xeloda
  • Streptozotocin
  • Fludarabine
  • Raltritexate

How to Tackle Hair Loss Caused by Chemotherapy

Although most of the drugs used in the treatment of cancer can cause hair loss, some of them do not. The pattern of hair loss differs from drug to drug. While some will cause a rapid loss of hair, others might start off with the thinning of hair.

It is also important to talk to your doctor so they can the side effects can be explained before going into the therapy. It is a good idea to let your family know what to expect, especially the young ones.

You can choose a scarf or a wig to wear after the loss of hair occurs. The loss of hair by chemotherapy is temporary. The hair that grows after the therapy might also be of a different shade from the original. This is also temporary.

However, you could reduce the impact of chemotherapy drugs on your hair follicles using a cooling cap.

Buy Migraine Gel Head and Neck Ice Hat on Amazon

Cooling Caps

This is also known as scalp hypothermia. It is the process of cooling the scalp with cold caps before, during, and after chemotherapy to reduce the loss of hair.

The cooling of the scalp reduces the blood flow to the scalp by constricting the blood vessels. This, in turn, reduces the number of chemotherapy drugs that reach the scalp.

The low temperature also reduces the activities of the cells of the hair follicles. This reduces the impact of chemo drugs on these cells.

It is also believed that the cooling caps might protect the cancer cells lurking on the scalp and prevent the total removal of the tumor cells.

There are innovative designs of the cooling caps that are made up of a 2-piece cooling system. This cooling is controlled by a computer in order to properly regulate the temperature of the cap.

The cold liquid is circulated in the outer cap and while the inner cap is made with a strong rubber to hold the cap in place.

The side effects of scalp hypothermia are scalp pain, headache, chills, and neck discomfort.

Buy Wearable Ice Pack on Amazon


Leave a Comment