We have all become accustomed to seeing cancer patients wearing head coverings whenever they are out in public. Hair loss is one of the more conspicuous and embarrassing side effects of chemotherapy. The one positive thing is that most cancer patients successfully regrow their hair once chemotherapy is complete. For those whose hair does not regrow so well, there is promise by way of PRP treatments.
“PRP” is an acronym that stands for “platelet rich plasma”. PRP treatments and therapies involve taking blood from the patient, putting it into a centrifuge to separate out the plasma from the red and white cells, and then injecting the resulting substance into the treatment site. Various forms of PRP are used for cosmetic rejuvenation, cardiovascular procedures, treating sports injuries, and re-constructive dental work.
The key to the success of PRP treatments comes by way of the constituents of the plasma substance. Once red and white cells are separated from blood plasma, we are left with a fluid that contains the plasma, platelets, bioactive proteins and two growth factors. It is the proteins and growth factors that give PRP its healing power.
Hair Loss and Chemo
Chemotherapy is a form of nuclear medicine that combats cancer by directly attacking rapidly dividing cells. In essence, the drugs used in chemotherapy poison and kill certain kinds of cells indiscriminately. Unfortunately, hair follicles are among the most rapidly reproducing cells in the body. Chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells, but they also kill hair follicle cells as well.
The nature of chemotherapy indicates that the vast majority of cancer patients receiving the treatment will lose most, or all, of the hair on the head. This includes the eyebrows. What’s more, hair loss is fairly sudden as compared to gradual alopecia and other forms of age related hair loss. It is something many cancer patients have trouble dealing with because it is both shocking and embarrassing.
PRP in Hair Growth after Chemo
Using PRP treatments and therapy to promote hair growth after chemo is still in its infancy. However, a number of studies have shown a lot of promise. It is a therapy that takes the patient’s own blood and uses it to encourage the body to naturally replace the tissue that was destroyed by chemotherapy. Moreover, because it is a natural treatment, it is safe for just about anyone.
For hair growth purposes, PRP is injected directly into the skin at the affected site. The plasma then goes to work in two ways. First of all, the proteins are used by the body to promote healing to injured tissue. In the meantime, the growth factors encourage the body to create new tissue. The combination of the two can restore hair follicles to their previous health and levels of hair production.
An added benefit of PRP therapy for hair growth is that it also stimulates healthier skin all the way around. PRP encourages the body to produce more collagen, which, in turn, results in healthier and more beautiful skin. There is hope that the right therapies could help regrow hair and restore a more youthful appearance after cancer treatment is complete.
It goes without saying that chemotherapy related hair loss is about more than just the physical appearance. It is a constant reminder to the patient that he or she is dealing with something that is potentially life threatening. By the same token, re-growing hair after chemotherapy is an encouraging reminder of triumphing over the disease. Hair regrowth is a very important part of recovery for that very reason. As such, we hope PRP therapies prove to be successful in this arena.