Is Incontinence After Surviving Prostate Cancer Common?

Every day, more men are recovering and experiencing life after a prostate cancer diagnosis. The American Cancer Society reports that prostate cancer's 5-year survival rate is high, and treatments are improving over time. 

However, any major illness presents challenges. Men who have beaten prostate cancer may now be dealing with loss of bladder control and leaking urine. How long will it last? What can they do to speed up recovery? 

This article will share resources about incontinence after beating prostate cancer. The information can be used to help kick start conversations with a doctor or healthcare provider about specific health concerns. It isn’t a substitute for medical advice. 

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What Types of Bladder Issues Might Occur After Prostate Cancer?

Incontinence in prostate cancer survivors is relatively common. Cleveland Clinic reports that up to 8% of men develop incontinence after prostate removal. 

Bladder problems may also arise from radiation treatment or surgery. In addition, The Simon Foundation for Continence explains that treatment of prostate problems could damage the urethral sphincter, the muscles that help control the flow of urine.

It’s important to remember that prostate cancer can cause urinary incontinence at later stages, too. A prostate gland that’s enlarged for any reason can block the urethra. This can eventually weaken bladder muscles and causes problems with full emptying. 

This can lead to frequent urination in men, or urge incontinence, as well as involuntary dribbling after urinating, known medically as post-micturition incontinence. 

The most common type of incontinence men experience after surviving prostate cancer is stress incontinence: bladder pressure caused by physical movements such as sneezing, coughing, lifting weights or running. 

How Long Does Incontinence After Prostate Surgery Last?

Prostate cancer incontinence isn’t necessarily a permanent condition. The duration of male incontinence for survivors of prostate cancer is typically between three months to a year, and many men experience rapid improvement after a few months. 

There are a number of factors that can affect this time range, including weight, age and others health factors. Because the risk of prostate cancer increases with age, it is generally older men who will experience incontinence afterward. 

There are also steps individuals can take to improve continence. It can be helpful to view continence exercises and treatment options as part of the recovery from prostate surgery. 

To recover control in the urethral sphincter, incorporate Kegel exercises into the daily routine. These help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, and can be beneficial both before and after prostate surgery to improve light dribbling. 

UCLA Health offers tips on how to effectively perform Kegel exercises and additional pelvic floor exercises. It recommends contracting your pelvic floor muscles for a count of five, and then relaxing to complete one repetition. Start with a low number and work toward a goal of 10-20 repetitions up to four times a day. 

A similar pelvic floor exercise is to contract the muscles in your anus for a count of five, and relaxing for one repetition. These exercises together can help regain control and strength throughout the pelvic floor. 

There are also medications a doctor or healthcare provider can prescribe to treat male incontinence, so it’s important to speak honestly about healing after surviving prostate cancer. 

If more severe incontinence problems persist, a physician may recommend surgery for a urethral sling or even an artificial urinary sphincter.

What’s the Best Way to Manage Incontinence and Prostate Cancer?

While performing pelvic floor exercises may help, individuals may still experience occasional dribbles or heavier urine leaks. Male guards can assist with providing the protection needed while keeping the skin dry and odor-free. 

If incontinence is more severe, NorthShore Care Supply also offers discreet and comfortable adult diapers and protective underwear. Some men choose to carry these in briefcases or backpacks if pockets aren’t large enough, along with disposable bags and wipes for changing on the go. 

For details on absorbent products, including tab-style briefs, male guards and pull-on underwear, visit the NorthShore Blog, “Choosing Incontinence Supplies After Prostate Surgery.” 

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Celebrate the Win: Surviving Prostate Cancer

Life may change in many ways after beating prostate cancer, and having information is the best preparation. Incontinence after prostate surgery isn’t a given, and those who experience it may not need to manage symptoms for long. 

We hope we’ve shared valuable resources to help lessen worry along with useful guidance on managing incontinence in the short- or long-term. 

Did you like this article? Visit the NorthShore Blog for more about living a full, confident life while managing incontinence.

This article is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always speak to your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions or for advice regarding a medical condition. 

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