By JOSH NEWTON
Many cancer patients could lose their hair during the course of treatment, or lose a body part that must be removed to prevent the growth and spread of their cancer.
Man-made substitutes called prostheses can be used externally or sometimes implanted during surgery to help a cancer patient look as if a particular body part was never lost.
According to the American Cancer Society, the most common form of needed prostheses include those for the breast, leg, or male genitals.
Wigs, though they are often only temporarily needed, are perhaps the most well-known substitute used as a result of cancer treatments.
Identities Beauty Supply in Tahlequah offers dozens of synthetic and real-hair wigs for local cancer patients.
“When a customer comes in, they tell us what color they are looking for, and whether they are looking for a short style or long style,” said owner Charlene Craig.
Craig estimates there are 30 different shades of hair colors available in wigs, along with blends that include highlights or lowlights. Customers can also view other color options and have special orders made and delivered within a few days.
Real-hair wigs are more expensive than synthetics, often ranging from $300 to $600 each; while synthetic wigs can cost $100 to $300 each.
Craig said synthetic wigs are sold more than real hair.
“The synthetic wigs hold their style better,” said Craig.
Many of them can be curled and styled, though care must be exercised for synthetic wigs that are not heat-resistant.
Craig said many customers will pay for their wigs and pass along the bill to their insurance company for reimbursements. According to the American Cancer Society, doctors may provide patients with prescriptions for wigs and other prostheses, which are sometimes covered by medical insurance.
When it comes to other prostheses, the ACS recommends a cancer patient speak with his or her doctor before any type of surgery. If one is needed, it’s important to ask if it will be placed or implanted during surgery, or if it is to be worn externally.
Women who have had the breast removed or altered may want to search for a breast form, which may be worn to simulate natural shapes. Breast prostheses typically are silicone, foam, or fiberfill and can be worn inside a bra or attached to the body.