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Living with Incontinence

Ovarian Cancer and Incontinence

The early symptoms of ovarian cancer are vague and general, but frequent urination in the absence of infection is one of them – so it should never be ignored.

Published by Jane Granger
Ovarian Cancer and Incontinence

Ovarian Cancer – the facts

Ovarian cancer can be asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) or, as mentioned, can have general and vague indicators. This is why the majority of cases have a late diagnosis, with devastating consequences.

According to the Jean Hailes website for the 25% of cases caught early, the prognosis is usually good, with 90% of women being cured. The real issue is the 75% of women diagnosed in the late stages, with only 25% of those surviving more than five years.

Unlike breast, bowel and cervical cancer, a reliable and accurate mass screening program has yet to be developed.


Incontinence may be a sign of cancer

It’s important to note, just because you experience incontinence, doesn’t mean ovarian cancer is the cause, but combined with some other symptoms, it may be an indicator.

The Mayo Clinic Proceedings reports on a study of 107 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. 18% of the women had incontinence) that proceeded to get worse over 2 or 3 weeks. "Incontinence usually happens gradually over several years, not that quickly," noted lead researcher Barbara P. Yawn, MD.

The study also found that 22% of the women experienced abdominal pain that lasted for longer than two weeks, not associated with diarrhoea or vomiting and 10% of the women had spotting, deemed unusual among women over age 40.

Women who are peri- or post-menopausal women are at the highest risk of cancer, and they may already be experiencing some incontinence.

If you have any these symptoms, either in combination or isolation, see your doctor.


Other Common Symptoms

  • A sense of bloating, with vague but persistent and unexpected gastrointestinal complaints
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Unexplained changes in bowel habits
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • New and unexplained abdominal postmenopausal vaginal bleeding
  • Frequent or urgent urination


Ovarian Cancer Treatment Can Cause Incontinence

Surgery and chemotherapy are generally used to treat ovarian cancer. As with most abdominal surgeries and treatments that affect nerve health or muscle strength, treatments for ovarian cancer can aggravate or cause the development of incontinence.

Treatments that may cause or exacerbate incontinence are:

  • Radiation therapy to the pelvic area, which can irritate the bladder
  • Chemotherapy, which may cause nerve damage, vomiting that strains the pelvic floor muscle or loss of hormones
  • Surgery to the pelvic area, which can damage muscles or nerves that help control urination
  • Medicine that increases hydration or urine production, which can make incontinence worse


If you have any of the symptoms described, make an appointment with your doctor immediately. Don’t ever feel you’re being overly cautious as this is a disease where early intervention save lives.

Remember too, that these symptoms aren’t conclusive, and you may not have cancer. Further examination and testing will need to be carried out to determine an accurate diagnosis. And again, caught early, the prognosis is typically good.


This article has been adapted from the US TENA website


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.