Choose a Head Covering—Or Not: Back at You, Cancer!

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Coping with hair loss is one of the most devastating side effects of chemotherapy treatment. Our self-esteem is closely associated with our looks, and our hair plays a major role in how we look. It can really be a blow to one’s self-esteem when chemotherapy causes hair loss.

It may be a good idea to start looking for headgear before chemo robs you of your tresses. First of all, ask your oncologist for a prescription for a cranial prosthesis—med speak for a wig! Many insurance companies will cover the cost of one wig during cancer treatment. Wigs are expensive, but that’s usually the first thing that one thinks of. However, there are many alternatives to wigs that cancer patients can use to supplement the wig.

Cancer hats are a great alternative. Wigs can be extremely hot in warmer climates, and hats can provide relief from the sun. Some hats are expensive, but many are not. Visit the website of Breast Friends Hat Project offers diverse programs and projects. even though they are limited at this time because of the coronavirus. The American Cancer Society offers a service called Tender Loving Care. This non-profit service produces a catalog featuring a variety of products for cancer patients. The National Breast Cancer Society of Australia sponsors a hat project for both men and women living with cancer.

Chemo hats are specially designed hats that take into consideration the dry, sensitive scalp suffered by many chemotherapy patients. Often these hats are made from soft bamboo or silk and are less likely to irritate the scalp of cancer patients.

In addition to wigs and hats, there are many other types of head coverings for cancer patients. Caps, scarves and turbans are popular head coverings. There’s a wide variety of products, and these coverings affordable, and since their price is much lower, you may be able to purchase several and in different styles. These coverings are lighter and somewhat cooler than wigs. Often, they do not cause an itch as much as a wig or a hat does.

You may wonder what type of head covering is best. Actually, it depends on you. Cancer hats are wonderful for both men and women. Women enjoy bamboo hats because they are good for different temperatures and fashionable. For those who suffer from the cold, knit caps can help. Beanies and other sleep caps are good to keep you warm and prevent the stray hairs from covering your pillow at night.

Natural fibers such as wool, cotton and bamboo are often less irritating than the synthetic fibers such as polyester. Each of these three main fibers has its advantages. Wool is an excellent insulator, and therefore perfect for cold winter days. Cotton is easily washed and a great alternative to wool. It is lightweight and ideal for warm summer days. Bamboo is soft and breathable. It also has antibacterial properties that reduce the itchiness associated with other fibers or fabrics.

You will probably want some kind of head covering when outside. The sun is drying and skin is often more sensitive to sun exposure during chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Certain coverings may cause you to perspire and develop itchiness. If you prefer not to wear head coverings, don’t forget to apply sunscreen of 15SPF or 30SPF to protect yourself from the sun’s rays.

For the bold, bald is beautiful. Skipping head covers altogether can be very comfortable and liberating. Others like the bald look but prefer to decorate the scalp with tattoos. See different Pinterest pages for ideas on how to tattoo your head. There are some crazy ideas, but many feminine designs, too.

If you are an arts and crafts person, sewing head coverings for yourself or others may be an enjoyable task. Melly Sews and See Kate Sew have projects for making head coverings for cancer patients. Check with your local cancer society to determine where you can donate your projects. Even if you don’t want to sew a head covering, you may want to add rhinestones, chains (for teens) or a rosette on one side to make your purchased covering truly unique and your own.

Living with cancer and going through chemotherapy and radiotherapy are difficult at best. Many patients find that using a beautiful head covering helps them cope with hair loss. Others throw caution to the wind and experiment with bold coverings and designs that they would never have used before cancer. Whatever you choose, remember, a sense of humor will go a long way in your treatment. ■

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