Prostate Cancer Foundation - Urinary Dysfunction
Urinary incontinence (leaking urine) can be a temporary or permanent side effect of treatment for prostate cancer. Under normal conditions, urine flow is controlled by muscles in the bladder neck (internal sphincter) and by muscles surrounding the urethra (external sphincter).
These muscles may be damaged either during surgery or radiation therapy. Usually, urinary incontinence is a temporary condition that will improve in the few months that follow treatment.
Some patients (approximately 1-2%) may have persistent post-operative incontinence.
Stress incontinence occurs with strenuous activity such as lifting, bending over or even laughing.
Urge incontinence occurs because of a bladder spasm or contraction that results in a desperate need to urinate.
Kegel exercises both before and after treatment are an excellent way to strengthen your pelvic muscles and control your urine flow. Kegels may be done sitting, standing or lying down. Each Kegel cycle is comprised of 3 steps: Tighten rectum as if you are about to pass gas and you are trying to hold it. Tilt pelvic floor if lying on the floor tilt pelvis toward the ceiling. Pull everything up as if you are trying to internalize your scrotum. Hold these 3 steps for 5-10 seconds each and release. Repeat these cycles about 45-60 times. You may do them all at once or throughout the day.
Special “pouches” or pads may be worn with briefs. These may be found at your local pharmacy. A less costly but equally effective solution is to use diapers for newborns in place of the pads.
For longer periods, items such as condom catheters (a bag and tubing that connects to the penis to allow free drainage) may be helpful.