It’s Alopecia Not Cancer

I can say from many first-hand experiences that by no fault of their own, many people will see a woman with no hair or eyebrows and default to cancer. I have been confronted by men and women the few times I’ve worn scarves asking me what type of cancer I have, or they say I’m strong for fighting cancer before asking any questions.

Unfortunately, it seems that the general public doesn’t realize there are many other reasons women can be bald. I’m not shaming people for this but when you think back, and you saw a bald woman did you first think cancer? This could be because for many cancer is the only time women speak out about losing their hair. Alopecia is still a pretty quiet disease, there are some foundations and singular people making an effort to spread the word, but overall the education level to the general public is low. So I never get mad if someone asks if I have cancer, I see it more as an opportunity to educate!

Here are some reasons that are not cancer-related a woman may lose her hair:
Hypothyroidism (A condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone.)
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (A hormonal disorder)
Trichotillomania (A disorder that involves recurrent, irresistible urges to pull out body hair.)
Telogen Effluvium (A reversible condition in which hair falls out after a stressful experience.)
Lupus (An inflammatory disease caused when the immune system attacks its own tissues.)
Oh and Alopecia!

For the women with Alopecia that I have met many refuse to go without wigs because they are afraid people will think they have cancer, or that they will think they are sickly and will pity them. These reasons are also why many Alopecia women who wear scarves choose not to wear pink. This is out of respect for women suffering from cancer, and to eliminate confusion. Some women will still wear pink, and that’s totally fine! I can just speak from the experiences I have been told personally.

Now please please don’t take this as me shaming women with cancer! I can not imagine the physical and mental toll of having cancer has on anyone and will never try to minimize their struggle. The point I just want to make is the next time you see a bald man or woman think of the alternatives that may have caused them to be bald. Now I’m also not saying to walk up to a bald child or adult and say “hey why are you bald?”. Let the conversation happen as if they are not bald and if that person is comfortable to tell you then listen with open ears. I know that I feel more open to telling someone about my Alopecia when they are listening compared to someone hounding me with questions.

Sadly, when baldness happens without a choice, it can be an embarrassing thing, so people may not be open at first to explain why they are bald and that’s ok. Some people will gladly tell you their bald path, and you may just learn something!