Objective: The objective of this study is to compare men and women's accounts of chemotherapy-induced alopecia.
Design: Secondary analysis of narrative interview data.
Participants: Thirty-seven people aged 18-38 years, including 11 men and 8 women who had experienced hair loss, interviewed between 2000 and 2005.
Setting: Participants were recruited throughout the United Kingdom.
Results: Hair loss made many men and women acutely aware of their vulnerability and visibility as a 'cancer patient'. Both men and women described a sense of strangeness or shock when they lost their hair and experienced various negative reactions when people assumed their hairless appearance was a lifestyle choice. The most striking contrast in men's and women's accounts was that women spoke solely of the loss of hair from the head and face above the eye line, and men spoke about losing hair from wider body surfaces. Only women mentioned being encouraged by others to disguise or to prevent hair loss. The results are discussed in relation to gendered assumptions about the distribution of body hair.
Conclusions: Contrary to prevailing assumptions, both women and men described negative (and often similar) feelings about hair loss. Understanding these experiences can help professionals better equip their patients to deal with this aspect of their treatment.