Dealing With Hair Loss During Cancer

Becky Franks, Executive Director

When people get diagnosed with cancer, they are thrown into a world of fear, anxiety, worry and the unknown. There are treatment decisions to be made that will hopefully make the cancer go away with limited side effects. Although treatment has improved significantly over the past 10-20 years, one side effect that frequently comes with chemotherapy is hair loss. This can come in varying degrees from mild thinning, to total loss of hair on the head, to loss of hair all over the body including eyebrows and eyelashes. This can be very traumatic for both men and women, and for some, it can affect treatment decisions.

At the Cancer Support Community, we take hair loss very seriously and provide help for women who are dealing with not only the loss of their hair, but also a change in the way they perceive themselves and their looks. For many women, hair is an important part of what makes them feel beautiful, and in our culture, women aren’t bald on purpose. For the past few years, we have teamed up with the American Cancer Society to provide a program called Look Good Feel Better®. This program provides licensed cosmetologists with training to help them understand the side effects of cancer treatment that involve the hair and skin. They meet one-on-one, or in a group of 2-3 to help women with make-up, skin care and hair loss. Each participant walks away with about $250 of skin care and make up products and they truly feel better about how they look.

During this visit, hair loss is addressed in a number of ways. First of all, the Cancer Support Community has teamed up with the Bozeman Deaconess Cancer Center to get donated wigs placed stylishly in wood cabinets so women can pick out a few to try on. If a wig is donated and has been used, our other partner, Bozeman Academy of Cosmetology, cleans and prepares them for future use. Once they find a wig that works for them, volunteer cosmetologists come to our “boutique” to trim the wig for a correct fit, and teach women how to care for it. They leave with the tools they need to use the wig in a comfortable way.

Since we started this in May of this year, 6 women have come to get a wig and have walked away empowered and feeling better about themselves. One woman who came to get a wig said, “It was so nice to come here, in a non-clinical setting, to get my wig. With money tight, I appreciate that there is no charge, and I loved having the cosmetologist trim my wig here. The last thing I want to do is go into a salon where all the other women have their full head of hair, while I sit with a bald head. Thank you!”

In addition to wigs, we have many scarves and hats available and the Look Good Feel Better® consultants show women how to tie the scarves and work with hats. In addition to this, there is a beautiful Hat Tree at the Bozeman Deaconess Cancer Center with a variety of home-made and store-donated hats for the taking.

Although losing your hair can be a terrible side effect of cancer treatment, the experience has been made more tolerable at the Cancer Support Community where you will be well taken care of. For more information about how to get a wig or participate in the Look Good Feel Better® program, call  582-1600 or check us out on the web at