The average person sheds between 50 and 100 hairs every day. Though this number seems high, we have so many healthy hair follicles constantly producing new strands that their absence is hardly noticed. However, when one suffers the devastating side effects of chemotherapy, those follicles are unable to maintain their health. That means cancer patients — on top of painful treatments — must also cope with the indignity of hair loss.
Cancer is treated primarily through chemotherapy and radiation. The goal of both is to target rapidly dividing cells because cancer spreads and grows through rapid cell division. Unfortunately, hair follicles operate similarly and divide frequently usually every 23 to 72 hours; this makes them indistinguishable from cancer cells, so they are destroyed throughout treatment. It is a harsh and unfair side effect of the already brutal process and can have disastrous impacts on self-esteem, especially for women who are used to using their hair as a form of personal expression.
Luckily, there are salons and organizations like the Samson Cancer Center Hair Boutique in Moorestown that have cropped up to fill a dire need: to give women their hair back.
Rosalie Forcinito was one of their satisfied customers after having lost her hair to breast cancer treatments the year before, and she expounds the benefits with utter appreciation.
“I felt like a million dollars. You don’t feel good about yourself when you are going through cancer treatments. I was so upset about everything, and this made me feel great. I even wanted to go out afterward. The wig and makeover gave me a little more strength to keep going and fighting because I didn’t have to look like a cancer patient.”
Forcinito ended up enjoying her wig so much that she took it home with her. Seth Berk, an oncologist at the center, explains the importance of hair to someone experiencing chemotherapy and radiation.
“For some who are upset it may be vanity issues,” he says. “But for others, it’s a tangible fact that they have cancer. It challenges coping mechanisms because it broadcasts to the world that the patient has cancer.”
By removing that tangible evidence, patients are able to fight a little bit harder and feel a little bit stronger. Restoring a cancer patient’s hair can make a marked difference in their quality of life and happiness, which can, in turn, promote faster healing. A May 2017 consumer survey found that 51% of Americans use hair care products every day.