Early this week E! news reported that Fashion Police cohost and E! news anchor, Giuliana Rancic, has been recently diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. Our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.
October is breast cancer awareness month and The American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates for breast cancer in the United States for 2011 are staggering:
- 230, 480 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women
- 57,650 new cases of non-invasive/earliest from of breast cancer will be found
- 39,520 deaths from breast cancer (women)
In honor of this month allow us to shed light on a topic that is too often overlooked when treating breast cancer: hair loss in breast cancer patients and survivors.
Everyone knows that chemotherapy causes hair loss, but it is assumed once chemotherapy has stopped the survivor’s hair will grow back. What is documented is oncologist may inadvertently be prolonging hair loss for breast cancer patients and survivors by not recommending FDA approved hair restoration medications.
The drug Letrozole, generic name for Femara®, is often prescribed to breast cancer patients and survivors. Letrozole lowers estrogen levels in women, which may slow the growth of certain types of breast tumors that need estrogen to grow in the body. Letrozole was made available for prescription in 1997.
While there are many potential side effects for Letrozole such as high cholesterol, hot flashes, osteoporosis, nausea, etc., the side effect most often dismissed or overlooked by treating physicians is hair loss.
In the Oxford Annals of Oncology, a published article entitled Alopecia in a premenopausal breast cancer woman treated with letrozole and triptorelin, physicians found that women complained of a “daily scalp hair loss while combing and progressively developed a diffuse non-scaring alopecia” while on Letrozole. When other causes of hair loss were eliminated, the conclusions from this study showed when topical minoxidil 2% was applied twice a day hair loss stopped, approximately 6-8 weeks later, and hair regrowth was seen.
Hair loss surgeon Dr. Ken Williams of OC Hair Restoration Center in Irvine, California recommends women start using minoxdil 2% or 5% twice a day before starting on Letrozole therapy. “Women shouldn’t have to chose between cancer and hair loss”, says Dr. Williams.
For Guliana Rancic, and all women who are diagnosed with breast cancer, we pray for faith, hope, and strength to come to you in your time of need.