03 / 30 / 14

Managing Hair Loss During Chemotherapy: Preparing for Wig Selection

You’ve accepted your cancer diagnosis, informed family and friends, and are preparing to undergo chemotherapy treatment. You’ve read online that hair loss is extremely common and have researched different ways that women cope with hair loss. After thinking, reading, and talking to a few friends, you’ve decided that a wig may be a good option for you. Notice I said may be a good option. If you’re not entirely sure whether a wig is right for you, but you want to learn more before you decide, that’s completely normal. Below are a few ways that women can begin the conversation about whether a wig is the best choice for them.

Prepare for a change: Buying a wig is not as easy as just going out and buying a wig. There is a big emotional piece that is useful to address before you make this step. Hair loss is called a loss for a reason. Women undergoing cancer treatment may feel a particular sense of loss that is unique and important to consider. Before purchasing a wig, you may consider preparing yourself emotionally for the decision. The National Cancer Institute describes the very normal feelings that many people feel after learning they have cancer, which include: denial, anger, fear, stress, anxiety, depression, sadness, guilt, and loneliness. These feelings may spill over when you’re trying to decide the best way to cope with the symptom of hair loss during treatment. Try to find an online or in-person support group that fits who you are and where you are in the process. Talk to people about your concerns and seek support when you need it. Explore your own reactions with friends and family by sharing this important decision with them.

Research possible options: Your options for wig stores and styles are endless. However, you want to be sure to do all of the necessary research so you find a wig (or two!) that is perfect for you. Look Good… Feel Better suggests that women browse wig stores online and then have a supportive friend or family member accompany them to visit the store. There are many different types of wigs, but most fall into two categories: synthetic or human hair wigs. Both have their pros and cons and it’s important to learn about the differences before making a final selection. Buying a wig online may seem like a good idea in the moment since it saves you from the potential embarrassment of having to go into a store. However, when you visit the store, you can talk directly with a wig expert and try on a number of different styles. If you’re really stuck on what wig is right for you, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345 for a recommendation.

Consider your finances: Before purchasing a wig, check with your health insurance company to see if it is covered. Most insurance companies cover chemotherapy-required wigs, so don’t spend a lot of time worrying before you call! Insurance companies may need a prescription for the wig, which your doctor can provide. Pam Stephan, medical writer for About.com, recommends saving your doctor’s prescription, sales receipt for wig, completed insurance form, and any correspondence between you and the insurance company.

Deciding to purchase a wig is a big decision that is completely and totally up to you. If you’re still in the deciding process, allow yourself to be there for as long as you need to be in order to feel comfortable.