One unpleasant side-effect following prostate cancer surgery is urinary incontinence. The condition occurs as a result of damage to or the removal during surgery of one of the bladder sphincters, allowing urine to escape. So, how does urinary incontinence manifest itself during daily life and what can you do to cope with it?
There are several different types of urinary incontinence:
Stress incontinence refers to a small leak of urine that occurs when you sneeze, cough or undertake physical exercise, such as skipping or running.
Urge incontinence refers to the sudden urge to urinate, sometimes uncontrollably.
Overflow incontinence is when you are unable to completely empty your bladder. It may take you a long time to do so, and you could have a very weak stream or dribble of urine, rather than a flow.
Continuous incontinence is when you lose all ability to control urination. Thankfully, this is an uncommon side-effect of prostate cancer surgery.
The good news is that most men regain full bladder control within a few months following surgery. This process can be gradual, with many men experiencing small amounts of dribble to the point where full control is regained.
Coping with urinary incontinence
During the recovery process you can help to cope with urinary incontinence by using sanitary pads or absorbent briefs, which are fine for coping with minor leaks. A plastic under-sheet for your bed is a good idea as is a waterproof chair cushion cover.
Try not to wait until the last minute to go to the toilet if you need to pee, just in case you don't make it in time. It's a good idea to avoid drinking anything that contains caffeine. Caffeine is a diuretic that can irritate the bladder, exacerbating urinary incontinence problems. The same is true of alcohol.
It may be useful to have a chat with your doctor or hospital physiotherapist, as there are exercises that you can do to strengthen the muscles around your bladder.
Urinary incontinence is often worse at the end of the day and at night. If possible, avoid drinking large amounts of water during the evening so that you don't risk overnight leakage.
Urinary incontinence can be a problem following prostate cancer surgery. Be sure to mention any problems that you experience with incontinence to your post-surgery medical team and follow the tips given above to help you cope with this upsetting problem.