Incontinence After Prostate Surgery & Prostatectomy

23 March 2017

Discovering that you have prostate cancer is one of the scariest and worrying times in a man’s life and unfortunately it is not uncommon.

Worried manThe aim of this article is to help you put things into perspective, to provide you with some hope and positivity and to reinvigorate your positive mental attitude.

Depending on the man’s age and the aggressiveness of the cancer, surgery is an option. One common procedure is called a Prostatectomy and in recent years, has been performed robotically. This is known as Da Vinci surgery.

Although the surgery is often highly successful, it does carry a few side effects, some permanent and some temporary. One such side effect is incontinence, usually just urinary incontinence, which can last several months and even years in some cases.

Incontinence is not pleasant and some men really struggle with it, however, it can get better and it is important to put things into perspective. Prostate cancer is a killer if left untreated and the often-temporary incontinence is a relatively minor problem in comparison.

Post Surgery Incontinence

When discussing your prostate surgery the vast majority of surgeons will explain to their patient that there is a high risk of incontinence post-surgery. The problem is that most patients are understandably more worried about the actual surgery and the cancer itself than any post-surgery side-effects. So, when incontinence occurs it can often come as quite a shock.

Incontinence Can Affect Your Quality Of Life

Suffering from incontinence can be embarrassing and if you allow it to, it can totally change how you live your life. There are many things that can initially help manage the condition and over time it can be beaten and you can lead a normal life once again. A positive mind and outlook it essential however, if you believe that you can become free from incontinence then you stand a better chance of doing so.

What Causes Incontinence?

Many people are under the misapprehension that incontinence is an illness or a disease. Incontinence is a symptom caused, in this case, by the intrusive prostate surgery. Due to the location of the prostate in relation to the urethra and sphincter muscles there is a high possibility of damage to both the muscle and the nerves connected to these muscles. This can affect your ability to control your bladder, particularly when you laugh, sneeze or cough. This is known as stress incontinence.

What Happens After Surgery?

After nearly all prostate surgery (particularly a radical prostatectomy), the surgeon will leave a catheter in place for a period of time. This is defined by how severe the operation was but usually it is for no longer than a couple of weeks.

The reality is that after removal of the catheter the vast majority of men will suffer from temporary urinary frequency and incontinence. Regardless of what you may have heard, whether the operation was performed with the use of Da Vinci robot or by the scalpel, the incontinence issues are identical.

Stress incontinence is the most frequent type. This can happen when you pick up a bag of groceries, or perhaps when taking a morning walk. Another symptom may be the sudden need to urinate urgently, so badly in fact that you may not be able to make it to the bathroom in time. There are even some men who experience both symptoms, but the good news is that in most cases this is only temporary and most men make a full recovery over time.

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How To Manage Your Incontinence

The best thing to do in any situation like this is to take decisive action. The psychological benefits of making a decision will help you feel more positive about life, almost like you are steering the ship again, rather than being a passenger. Here are some positive steps you can take:

  • Wear Absorbent Pads and Pants – Discreet and comfortable, these items will soak up any leaks without anyone else even being aware of the situation. Wearing them will restore your confidence and enable you to start living a normal life again.
  • Pelvic Floor Exercises – By performing regular pelvic floor exercises, you will strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that control your urine flow. The greater effort and consistency you put into these exercises, the better and quicker the results will be.
  • Drink Plenty of Fluids – Try to drink about 3 to 4 pints of water a day but avoid fizzy drinks, or anything containing caffeine (primarily tea and coffee) and always drink alcohol in moderation.

There is so much support available relating to prostate cancer and incontinence that you should never feel alone and always seek help and advice if unsure. Remember, incontinence is just a side effect and the goal of successfully beating prostate cancer will be closer after the surgery.