The Hammonton Gazette
Wigs for chemo patients
Some forms of chemotherapy can cause breast cancer patients to lose their hair. Many patients will turn to wigs to sport a look they like and help them feel better about themselves.
Others will choose wigs to protect their privacy. Wigs can also help protect the scalp from the sun or from cold air.
Preparing for Hair Loss
Not all forms of chemotherapy cause hair loss. Ask your team whether it is something you should expect. If it is, the American Cancer Society advises that hair will start falling out two to three weeks after the first chemo treatment.
People with long hair may want to cut it short before treatment begins so that switching to a wig will be less noticeable. BreastCancer.org advises that it is less traumatic to lose short clumps of hair than long ones.
Once hair starts falling out, shave using an electric razor. This can help a person feel more in control and not wake up with itchy hair all over the pillow.
Choosing a Wig
When do you want to pick out a wig? BreastCancer.org suggests doing so before treatments start. This provides the opportunity to alternate it with natural hair and get used to the new look.
Measure your head to find out your cap size. Decide what kind of wig you want—do you want one like your own hair or do you want to go with a different look? Perhaps you want more than one wig.
BreastCancer.org recommends choosing a color that is a little lighter than your own hair. Skin color can change during chemotherapy, sometimes looking grayish, greenish, or yellowish. Less contrast is usually more flattering.
Synthetic wigs are generally less expensive than those made of real human hair and require less attention and care.
Finding a Wig
There are many places to find a wig. Three main ones are:
• Wig shops. Hairdressers, cancer centers and local breast cancer organizations or support groups can provide referrals to local wig shops or specialists. Some of the latter might even be willing to come to your home. Call in advance to find out if the store has special services for cancer patients such as private areas to try on wigs.
• Online. There are a wide variety of online retailers who offer wigs in many different colors, lengths and styles. Some of them will offer phone or email consultations to help a person find the right style.
• Charity programs. Cancer team members may be able to recommend organizations where you can get wigs for free. Nonprofit organizations or local churches may have donated wigs.
Some insurances will also cover the cost of a wig. Call your insurance company before you buy a wig. You’ll want to find out if they cover “cranial prosthesis for hair loss” related to chemotherapy. Ask how much they will cover, what sort of paperwork you need to provide, what the doctor’s prescription has to say and how long it will take to get reimbursed. Keep a copy of the receipts for your wig and the wig company’s tax ID number. If you do end up paying for part or all of the wig, you might be able to deduct it from your taxes.