What’s The Link: Prostate Cancer & Incontinence

Updated November 2022
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Many people are unaware of the link that exists between prostate cancer or prostate removal and urinary incontinence. Today we unpack this link in order to help support prostate cancer survivors.

Let’s Start at the Beginning… What is Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer is a disease that causes abnormal cells to grow inside a man’s prostate, part of the male reproductive system. Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer in men in the USA, affecting approximately one in every eight men at some stage in their lifetime.

What are the Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer is known as a ‘silent killer’ because it is often symptomless until after it has metastasized or spread throughout the body. That’s why it’s important that men get checked for prostate cancer regularly after the age of 50 (or 40 if you have a family history of prostate cancer or other risk factors). If you do experience the following symptoms of prostate cancer, you should discuss them with a medical professional as soon as possible:

  • The need or urge to urinate frequently or suddenly
  • Finding it difficult to start urinating or empty the bladder completely
  • A feeling of discomfort or pain while urinating
  • Weak flow of urine
  • Finding blood in your urine or semen
  • The feeling of pain in your lower back, upper thighs or hips
  • Pain when ejaculating
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How Common Is It?

The most common risk factor for prostate cancer is age. The older you are, the greater your chance of getting prostate cancer, with the average age at diagnosis being about 66.

Did you know there are a number of celebrities that have been diagnosed with prostate cancer? You’re not alone.

What Does Treatment Look Like?

Prostate cancer can be treated in many ways depending on the nature and stage of your diagnosis. Some treatment options include prostate removal (prostatectomy), radiation therapy and hormone therapy.

Talk to your doctor about what prostate cancer treatment is right for you, and remember to ask about the side effects of treatment, which can include very personal issues such as impotence and incontinence.

What is Incontinence and What Does it Have to do With Prostate Cancer?

Urinary incontinence is a common side effect of prostate cancer treatment, although bladder leakage can also be caused by other health issues, such as obesity and diabetes, as well as neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer's and just general weakening of the pelvic floor muscles as a result of aging.

Many men regain bladder control following prostate surgery, but others will experience a degree of urine leakage for the rest of their lives.

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So, Where’s The Link?

Here’s where the link comes in.

Urinary incontinence doesn’t necessarily occur with the diagnosis of prostate cancer. It does, however, sometimes occur with the treatment of prostate cancer. Most men regain control within a few weeks of treatment, but some continue to experience bladder leakage for longer. Your level of leakage one year after treatment is a good indicator of the bladder control you will have for the rest of your life.

Your Frequently Asked Questions About Prostate Cancer & Incontinence

This might be a new topic for some, so we’ve compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions we receive about incontinence and prostate cancer below!

How Much Urine Leakage Will I Experience After Prostate Surgery or Radiation?

The degree of your incontinence can change from person to person. Some men will experience little or no bladder control (complete incontinence), while others will notice only light dribbling, including leaking urine after urination. The amount of urine leakage can also be worse during certain activities like exercising or moving from a sitting position to standing. Many men also find they pee a little when they cough, sneeze or pass wind.

How Long After Prostate Surgery Does Incontinence Last?

It’s hard to say indefinitely, as it really does vary for every man based on his diagnosis and the treatment undergone. For some men, incontinence lasts a few months post-treatment, and for some, it becomes permanent. Talk to your doctor or physio about pelvic floor exercises, also known as kegel exercises, to help strengthen your pelvic floor and regain control.

Is there Anything I can do to Speed Up Bladder Recovery After Prostate Surgery or Radiation?

Yes, there is! Different treatments work for different men so we recommend talking to a medical professional to understand the options that are right for you. Some things you can try to help speed up bladder recovery include:

  • Kegels: Kegels (also known as pelvic floor exercises) can help to strengthen the muscles in the base of the pelvis and the pubic bone to help speed up your recovery process.
  • Surgery: In more severe cases of post-prostate cancer treatment incontinence, surgery can be another option. Surgical options like a urethral sling procedure or an artificial urinary sphincter can help to repair the damage and reverse incontinence.

Can I Live a Normal Life With Prostate Incontinence?

Absolutely! There are things you can do to help ensure you still live a normal life despite prostate bladder control and incontinence. Immediately after prostate cancer surgery, you are likely to have heavy incontinence, requiring high-absorbency single-use male urinary incontinence products, such as adult diapers and pull-ups. However, once your level of incontinence settles down to a light-to-moderate bladder leakage, many men find they prefer the comfort and discretion of wearing washable incontinence underwear for men. These leak proof underwear look just like ordinary underwear but offer protection for male urinary problems and dribbling. They give men who are struggling with incontinence after prostate cancer treatments the confidence to continue to live normal lives.

Find out more about options for managing adult male incontinence, including five popular brands of disposable pull-ups and the top brand of washable incontinence underwear for men, in our article What are the Top Adult Incontinence Underwear for Men.

What are the Best Washable Incontinence Products for Men?

The best reusable incontinence underwear provide discreet protection against light-to-moderate bladder leakage or prostate incontinence. Choose a brand that is made from high-quality stretch fabric for comfort and fit. Look closely at how much the different brands claim to absorb, and whether those claims have been independently verified by an international standards laboratory. Because they’re designed to absorb and hold liquids, washable incontinence briefs will take longer than ordinary underwear to dry, so for convenience, make sure the brand you choose can be safely tumble dried without ruining their leakproof layer and compromising their performance.

I've Been Diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. Where Can I Find Information and Support?

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you’re not alone. There are many useful resources out there, including the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the National Association for Incontinence.