Chemotherapy-induced alopecia and effects on quality of life among women with breast cancer: a literature review

Psychooncology. 2008 Apr;17(4):317-28. doi: 10.1002/pon.1245.


Background: Alopecia is a common side effect of chemotherapies used in the treatment of breast cancer. The aim of this review is to describe the effects of alopecia on quality of life (QOL) in this population.

Methods: We conducted a literature review using Medline, Embase, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature and PsycInfo databases. We searched for studies on the effects of alopecia on various aspects of QOL in breast cancer patients including anxiety and distress, body image, sexuality, self-esteem, social functioning, global QOL and return to work outcomes.

Results: A total of 38 articles were included in the review. Hair loss consistently ranked amongst the most troublesome side effects, was described as distressing, and may affect the body image.

Conclusions: We found very little quantitative data on other aspects of QOL. More research is needed to determine the presence and extent of negative effects on chemotherapy-induced alopecia on various aspects of QOL.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alopecia / chemically induced*
  • Alopecia / psychology*
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Body Image
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Self Concept
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sick Role
  • Social Adjustment