Breast Cancer Home > Gemzar and Hair Loss
In one clinical study involving Gemzar and hair loss, up to 18 percent of people who took Gemzar alone for chemotherapy treatment reported hair loss as a side effect of the drug. This hair loss generally begins to be noticeable within three to four weeks of starting Gemzar. A person's hair will most likely return to normal within two or three months after stopping the medicine.
Does Gemzar Cause Hair Loss?Hair loss is one of the most common side effects of Gemzar® (gemcitabine). In one clinical study, hair loss was reported in up to 18 percent of people who took Gemzar alone (even more people develop hair loss when Gemzar is combined with other chemotherapy medications). This is because chemotherapy affects all fast-growing cells throughout the body. Therefore, in addition to killing cancer cells, it also kills fast-growing normal cells. With some chemotherapy medications, such as Gemzar, this can include hair cells. Using Gemzar along with other chemotherapy medications can increase the risk of hair loss even more.
Usually, hair loss begins to be noticeable within three to four weeks after starting Gemzar. When hair loss does occur, the hair may become thinner or fall out entirely. Hair loss can occur on all parts of the body, including the head, face, arms, legs, underarms, and pubic area. After you stop chemotherapy, your hair will most likely return to normal within two or three months.
Given how commonly hair loss occurs in people taking Gemzar, it may be a good idea to expect and plan for hair loss. You may choose to wear wigs or other head coverings, or you may decide to leave your head uncovered. Also, feeling angry or sad is common and perfectly normal.
If you are taking Gemzar and hair loss is a concern, be sure to discuss your expectations and wishes with your healthcare provider. Talking about your feelings can help. You may also find it helpful to share your thoughts with someone who has had a similar experience.
(Click Chemotherapy and Hair Loss for tips on dealing with hair loss, as well as more information on treating your scalp and hair during chemotherapy.)