How does prostate cancer affect continence?
Urination is the response to the muscular walls of the bladder contracting to push urine out, while the muscles of the urethra simultaneously relax to allow it to flow out. And prostate cancer itself can interfere with this function.
As you can see in this illustration, the prostate gland sits below the bladder and around the urethra. It makes sense then that any enlargement caused by cancer has the potential to restrict flow of urine out of the bladder and lead to urine retention and other bladder issues.
Prostate cancer treatments and their impact on continence
When removing a cancerous prostate gland, it’s not uncommon to also acquire some damage to nerves and the sphincter muscle that sits between the bladder and the urethra. This ring of muscle’s usual state is to be clenched, holding urine in the bladder until it receives a message from the brain to release and allow urine to pass through. If it is damaged, that ability to hold urine back can be compromised, causing ‘after dribble’ and/or stress incontinence in men.
As well as targeting and destroying cancer cells, radiation can alter the density and elasticity of other tissue. It can also irritate the bladder, causing the muscle walls to involuntarily contract, unexpectedly forcing urine out. This is urge incontinence.
How to manage male urinary incontinence?
For many men, incontinence is the most difficult aspect of prostate cancer. However, it’s typically temporary with most men regaining control within six to twelve months of treatment.
In the meanwhile, here are some tips to consider.
- Psychologically prepare. Appreciate that incontinence is a real possibility with prostate cancer treatment, so don’t let it come as a shock. Find out what to actually expect and know what’s fact, and what’s a myth.
- Pelvic floor exercises. Make sure you get the all-clear from your surgeon before commencing, but these exercises can help strengthen the muscle that supports the bladder and urethra, to improve control.
- Lifestyle. Being overweight or a smoker can both place additional stress on the muscles of your urinary system.
- Diet. There are certain foods and beverages (specifically alcohol, caffeine and fizzy drinks) that are known to aggravate the bladder. Read through the list here and aim to avoid them.
- Chose a protective product. Unlike women, men aren’t as familiar with protective products so are often surprised to discover how comfortable, absorbent and discreet they are. You can check out TENA’s full range of Male products here. If you’re not sure what to choose, try our Product Finder Tool and take advantage of our free samples offer to find the one that suits your needs best.
What happens if it doesn’t resolve?
Asaleo Care makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.