Navigating Incontinence After Prostate Cancer

patient at doctors office discussing incontinence care after prostate cancer

Each year, more men are surviving and experiencing life after a prostate cancer diagnosis. The American Cancer Society reports that the 5-year relative survival rate for those diagnosed with prostate cancer is already 97%.[1] And with new cancer treatment innovation and advancements constantly underway, these impressive statistics are expected to continue improving.

That being said, beating prostate cancer still takes a sizeable toll on the body, and survivors often experience a wide range of side effects before, during, and after treatment. One of the most common symptoms men experience after prostate cancer treatment is urinary dysfunction, including varying degrees of urinary incontinence and irritative voiding symptoms such as increased urinary frequency, urgency, and pain during urination.

However, it is important to note that while these symptoms may be considered “normal” or common, you should always speak with a doctor or other trusted healthcare professional about any urinary changes you might notice.


What Can I Expect After Prostate Cancer Treatment?

For those who undergo a prostatectomy (removal of the prostate gland), up to 50% of men with normal baseline function before surgery will report some degree of increase in urinary symptoms, with about 10-25% reporting frequent heavy leakage at six months post-surgery. But excitingly, by three years post-op, less than 10% of survivors report using any type of absorbency product at all. [2]

The most common type of incontinence that men will experience post-op is stress incontinence – involuntary urinary leakage that occurs due to sudden pressure on the bladder during exercise or sharp movement such as sneezing or coughing.

And for men who undergo radiation treatment, including external beam radiotherapy or brachytherapy, irritative voiding symptoms and a varying degree of urinary incontinence are commonplace in the early days. But again, most individuals see a marked improvement in their symptoms within the first year. And there are many medications available by prescription that work to improve the worst of the irritative symptoms.


How Long Will My Symptoms Last?

Most often, prostate cancer-related incontinence is not a permanent condition, and it doesn’t happen to everyone. The average duration of urinary dysfunction symptoms for prostate cancer survivors ranges from three months to a year, and many men can hope to see rapid improvement within the first six months. 

Various other health factors including a patient’s weight, age, and certain pre-existing conditions can affect the time it takes a person to recover. But importantly, there are also a number of steps patients can take, such as specific pelvic floor exercises, to see better and quicker improvement in their symptoms over time.

The best way to strengthen the pelvic floor, including the muscles that control your urine flow that may have been weakened during cancer treatment, are exercises known as Kegel exercises. Kegel exercises help recover control of the urethral sphincter, increasing an individual’s urinary control and reducing occasional dribbling and other stress incontinence symptoms.

A doctor or trained physical therapist is often an essential resource when first learning how to properly perform Kegel exercises, but there is additional educational information available online that is a helpful place to get started.

How to Manage Incontinence During Recovery

While strengthening the pelvic floor can help, prostate cancer survivors often still experience moderate incontinence during the early weeks and months of recovery. It is crucial to give your body the grace and time it needs to heal during this period. Despite how eager you might feel to speed up the process, patience is key.

In the interim, absorbency products are an essential tool to help you stay dry and comfortable throughout the day. NorthShore recently partnered with a urologic surgeon to design a special “Step-Down” program to match each phase of the recovery process with the best fitting product.

Step #1: Early Recovery Days – GoSupreme Pull-On Underwear

In most cases, this is the first product you will use after the removal of your catheter. It is common for the level of incontinence to be higher at this stage of recovery and slowly improve as your body regains control. GoSupreme Pull-On Underwear offers a comfortable and highly absorbent solution so that you can stay dry all day long, allowing your entire bladder to completely empty into the product if necessary.


Step #2: Regaining Control – DoubleStop XL Male Guards

This XL male guard pad is designed with an adhesive so that it can be applied securely to your regular washable underwear. The XL version still offers a relatively high degree of absorbency, allowing you to transition comfortably from the GoSupreme Pull-Ons as your body begins to heal and you regain some control of your urine flow. Snug, form-fitting briefs are recommended over looser “boxer-style” underwear.


Step #3: Final Phases of Recovery – DoubleStop L Male Guards

This large version of the DoubleStop Male Guard offers a slightly smaller and less absorbent style. Also designed to be worn in your standard washable underwear, this will be the most comfortable level of absorbency support for the last months of your recovery journey. Again, briefs should be worn instead of boxers.


Celebrate the Win: Surviving

Experiencing incontinence is just one possible symptom that patients may experience, but it’s not a guarantee and many men eventually experience a full recovery. Either way, it may take some time to adjust to life’s “new normal” after surviving cancer. And it’s completely normal if it takes you longer than you thought to feel like yourself again.

No matter what, it’s important to remind yourself that the strength, stamina, and mental fortitude that it takes to survive cancer treatment deserves recognition. If you or someone you love is currently undergoing this challenging diagnosis, know that you are not alone. And we hope that you can find the support you need in all facets of life.



This article is not intended to replace 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. 




Keep learning at with their podcast on "Understanding & Overcoming Prostate Cancer" with guest Dr. Gregory Amend, a reconstructive urologist practicing on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, who shares his expertise on prostate health, prostate cancer, treatment options and recovery. 

"Step-Down” Phase Product Recommendations

NorthShore GoSupreme Overnight Incontinence Underwear
Top Seller

Starting at $8.99 FSA/HSA Eligible

NorthShore DoubleStop Male Incontinence Guards
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Starting at $3.99 FSA/HSA Eligible