Urinary Incontinence After Prostate Surgery: Everything You Need To Know

Incontinence After Prostate Surgery

Undergoing a prostatectomy (removal of the prostate due to cancer) can be difficult. And for many men, finding that they are incontinent post surgery may come as a shock.

But rest assured that there are many treatments available to manage incontinence treatment after surgery. Read below for some of the most common questions we receive about incontinence after prostate surgery.  

What causes incontinence after prostate surgery?

Urinary incontinence is a potential side effect of prostate removal surgery. The prostate surrounds the bladder. Removing it, or using radiation to treat it, can sometimes cause damage to the nerves and muscles of the bladder, urethra, and or sphincter, which controls the passage of urine from the bladder. This can result in urinary incontinence.

Is Incontinence Normal After Prostate Surgery?

Approximately 6-8 percent of men who have had surgery to remove their prostate will develop urinary incontinence. (Cleveland Clinic) The good news is that most men will eventually regain bladder control with time.

How bad is incontinence after prostate surgery?

The degree of incontinence varies from person to person and can be anywhere from full on incontinence, to light dribbles. And, the amount you leak right after surgery will likely lessen as you continue with your recovery and any additional bladder or pelvic floor treatments you may be doing.  

How long will I have incontinence after prostate surgery?

Most men who experience a loss of bladder control have symptoms for 6 months to 1 year post prostate surgery. However, a small percentage of men may continue to experience problems past the one year mark.

Does incontinence go away on its own after prostate surgery?

For most men, urinary incontinence will go away within about 1 year. Performing pelvic floor exercises, also known as kegels, which help strengthen the muscles that are located in the base of the pelvis between the pubic bone may help to speed the recovery process along.

Does incontinence happen if I treat prostate cancer with radiation?

Some men need radiation therapy after prostate removal. During radiation therapy, some of the normal tissues around the urinary sphincter, urethra and bladder may be exposed, causing irritation to occur post therapy, leading to incontinence. This typically subsides within a few months after radiation therapy, however if it persists, additional treatments described below may be helpful.

How can I improve incontinence after prostate surgery?

Want to stop incontinence after prostate surgery? Kegels may be your answer! As mentioned above, kegels are a common treatment option for incontinence after prostate surgery.  Among other things, the pelvic floor muscles help control bladder and bowel function and, like other muscles of the body, if they get weak they are no longer able to do their job effectively.  To improve muscle function, kegels must be done regularly, every day. The good news is that they can be performed pretty much anywhere, anytime, and in a variety of positions (sitting, standing, lying down, etc.). For a complete guide on performing a men’s kegel, click here.)

Biofeedback can sometimes be used to determine if you are performing a kegel properly. And, electrical stimulation may also be used to help re-teach the muscles to contract.

What treatments are available to me if my incontinence doesn’t go away after a year?

While kegels and behavioral therapy work well for most men with mild to moderate leaking, they may not be completely effective for some. Luckily, there are still some options for treating bladder leakage after prostate surgery.

Another surgery is sometimes needed when bladder leaks persist for more than a year after surgery. This may consist of having a urethral sling procedure, or an artificial urinary sphincter.

With a urethral sling procedure, a synthetic mesh tape is implanted to support the urethra. Up to an 80% improvement has been seen with this procedure and some men stop leaking completely.

An artificial urinary sphincter is used in patients who have more severe urinary incontinence that is not improving, or for those patients who may have had a lot of damage to the sphincter muscle after prostate surgery. An artificial urinary sphincter is a mechanical ring that helps close the exit from the bladder.

As will all surgeries, these come with pros and cons and potential complications. Be sure to discuss these options with your doctor. 

Incontinence after prostate surgery forums.

Going through prostate cancer and having your prostate removed can be a physically and emotionally trying time in life. Many men are unprepared for the extent to which they may experience bladder leaks after prostate removal and it can be disheartening to have undergone surgery only to experience a loss of bladder control for a period afterward.

Fortunately, this is usually resolved within a year. During that time though, you may find that you need someone to talk to about your experience. Finding a forum or message board filled with people who can relate can help ease some of the tensions that you may be going through. 

The NAFC message boards are a great way to connect with others who may also be experiencing incontinence, due to prostate surgery or other conditions.  They’re free to join and the forum is anonymous so you can speak freely without the worry of feeling embarrassed or ashamed. NAFC is proud of this amazing group of individuals who visit the forums and courageously share their stories, offer support, and provide inspiration to each other. We encourage you to check it out!

What To Do About An Enlarged Prostate?

What To Do About An Enlarged Prostate

Enlarged prostates are common as you age. Men aged 60 and older have a 50/50 chance of having an enlarged prostate and those who are 85 have a 90% chance. Those may be scary stats, but what exactly does having an enlarged prostate mean? Is it something to worry about? And if so, what are the treatment options? Keep reading to learn more about this very common condition and what it may mean for you.

Anatomy Review – function of the prostate

The main function of the prostate glad is to serve as a reproductive organ. It is responsible for producing prostate fluid, which is one of the main components of semen. The prostate gland muscles also help to transport semen into the urethra during ejaculation.  

The prostate gland sits just below the bladder, where the bladder and urethra (the tube that inside the penis that carries urine and semen out of the body) connect. In early life, it’s about the size and shape of a chestnut, and grows to different sizes throughout a man’s life. 

What causes the prostate to get enlarged?

As men age, the prostate gland grows. It’s estimated than as many as 17 million men have an enlarged prostate, or symptoms of Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH). While it’s unclear why the prostate begins to grow, its thought that an excess of certain hormones may be to blame.

Symptoms of an enlarged prostate include the following:

  • A weak or interrupted urinary stream

  • The sudden urgency to urinate

  • Frequent urination

  • An inability to empty the bladder during urination

  • Trouble initiating urine flow, even when you feel like your bladder is full.

Should I worry? 

Even if your prostate becomes enlarged, it may never become an issue for you. The problems start when the prostate begins to constrict or block the urethra. This can compromise the bladder’s ability to effectively empty, causing chronic retention of urine. And, because the bladder still continues to send signals that it needs to empty, urgency and frequency can occur (this is also known as overactive bladder).  If left for too long, the bladder may become distended, making it even harder for it to empty completely. 

For these reasons, it’s important to see your doctor right away if you start experiencing any of the symptoms listed above. Additionally, the symptoms of an enlarged prostate can also mimic those of other conditions, such as bladder cancer or overactive bladder. Your doctor will be able to help diagnose your condition to determine an appropriate treatment.

What’s the treatment for an enlarged prostate?

There are many treatment options for enlarged prostate, depending on your symptoms.

Active surveillance, or “watchful waiting” is a term used to describe the act of monitoring your condition regularly for any changes. This approach is often used for men whose symptoms are mild and not too bothersome. 

There are several medications that are approved for BPH, but most of them fall into two categories: Alpha blockers and inhibitors. Both are effective at treating BPH and sometimes are even prescribed in combination with each other.  

Non-invasive treatment options include things like laser therapy, which decreases the size of the prostate by removing some of the tissue, or laser vaporization, which enlarges the prostate obstruction and opens the urethra.  Transurethral microwave therapy or transurethral needle ablation are other non-invasive treatment options that destroy excess prostate tissue that is causing blockage.

Finally, surgery is also commonly used to help relieve symptoms of an enlarged prostate. The most common form of surgery is transurethral resection of the prostate, or TURP. This surgery requires no incisions, relying instead on a surgical instrument inserted through the tip of your penis and the urethra. Using this tool, the doctor is able to trim excess prostate tissue that may be preventing the flow of urine. 

Other less common surgeries are also used to both trim excess tissue from the prostate, or to decrease pressure on the urethra in order to make urinating easier. You can read more about additional surgical options here.

Patient Perspective: Nick's Story

Nick's Story - Incontinence After Prostate Removal

In August of 2015, I underwent surgery to have my prostate removed.  I had been diagnosed with prostate cancer the year before and my doctor had been closely observing me since then. 

When it seemed that my cancer was growing more quickly than he liked, he suggested surgery.  “Afterall”, he said, “you’re only 63.  You can still have a long life without worrying about this.”

So, after a lot of research, I went for it.  I knew there would be complications afterward, but incontinence was not something that I had anticipated being that big of a deal.  I thought I’d probably have to wear diapers for a couple of weeks and that would be the end of it. 

Boy was I wrong. 

Nine months later and I was still having a difficult time making it to the restroom.  It was so embarrassing as a man to face this problem. I couldn’t do the things I wanted to because I was scared of having an accident or a leak, and I felt ashamed of the bulky diapers that I was forced to constantly wear. 

I finally made an appointment with a surgeon in May to discuss a sling procedure and will be having the procedure done next month.  I’m hopeful that this will be a solution for me so that I can get on with my life and get back to doing the things that are important to me. 

Nick W., Houston, TX

Patient Perspective: Samuel's Story

Samuel's Story - Getting Help For Incontinence, Enlarged Prostate

How many of you men have incontinence? How many of you would admit if you did?  It’s a hard thing to come to terms with as a man. I know, because I’m one of the "lucky ones" who has been hit with this condition.

I had been noticing the need to use the bathroom more frequently for a while, but didn’t think much of it until I was on vacation with my wife a few years ago. We were in DC, walking around, being the typical tourists, when I suddenly felt the need to go. I wasn’t totally familiar with the area, and it was crowded, so it took me a while to find a bathroom. Unfortunately, it took me too long. I leaked – just a little bit, but enough to be able to tell. Luckily, I had a sweatshirt with me so I just wrapped it around my waist and told my wife we needed to head back to the hotel.

I was so embarrassed. She didn’t understand what had happened until we got back and saw that I needed to change my pants. And even then, it was hard for either of us to comprehend what had happened – I’m a grown man! I shouldn’t be wetting myself. We both brushed it off as a fluke and went on with the rest of our trip.

But a few weeks later at the gym, it happened again. And then again while doing some yard work at home. I started to feel like my body was betraying me. Why was this happening? I didn’t tell my wife that the problem had persisted until a few months later, when it was clear that I would need to get some help. She was so understanding and helpful. She did some research online to see what may be causing it and the treatment options available, helped me find a urologist to talk to, and even came with me to my appointment.

I’m happy to say that after talking to the doctor and getting treatment, I’m doing much better. Turns out I had an enlarged prostate so I’m on medication for that and it’s greatly reduced the need to run to the bathroom every five minutes, not to mention the leaks.

This has been a very humbling experience, but I’m glad that I opened up to my wife about it and that she was so understanding and helpful. I’m not sure I would have had the strength to get to a doctor about this had it not been for her pushing me along. Now, I’m leak free and am able to travel, workout and do pretty much what I want again without having to worry.

Samuel M., Cheyenne, WY

Incontinence During Sex - It Happens To Men Too

Incontinence During Sex Happens To Men Too

Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 7 men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime (only skin cancer has a higher rate).  And, while many men will go on to survive prostate cancer, the side effects of treatment can be difficult to deal with for many.

A common treatment for prostate cancer is a radical prostatectomy, or the complete removal of the prostate.  This is generally considered a good approach especially if the cancer is contained within the prostate gland and has not spread.  However, one side effect of this procedure is often incontinence.

Stress urinary incontinence, the type of incontinence that happens when you place pressure on the bladder, is common for men who have had their prostate removed or are undergoing other treatments for prostate cancer.  Treatment can sometimes weaken the bladder muscles, causing leakage when a man sneezes, coughs, exercises, or even during sex.  This can be extremely embarrassing for men, and can be discouraging when going through the healing process of having a prostatectomy. The good news is that many men regain full control of their bladder with time after a prostatectomy.

here are 4 tips that may help you avoid some awkward situations in the bedroom:

  • Try to watch your fluid intake in the hours leading up to sex.

  • Avoid consuming bladder irritating food and drinks, such as caffeine, chocolate, or alcohol.

  • Prior to sex, completely empty your bladder.

  • Keep a thick towel nearby in case of any accidents

While this problem can be an embarrassing one, keep in mind that many men deal with this in the months after prostate cancer treatment and with time, this condition should improve.  If you still experience problems a few months after your treatment, talk to your urologist about treatments for incontinence.  He or she can help you navigate the many options available to you and find one that fits best with your needs.

Prostate Cancer: The Case For Watchful Waiting

Prostate Cancer; The Case For Watchful Waiting

Prostate cancer is one of the leading cancer causes of death in men in the US.  The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime.  But, while this is a widespread condition, and treatment is sometimes warranted, the medical industry has begun to see a shift in the prostate cancer treatment, choosing to actively monitor patients over time instead of choosing to perform surgery or conduct radiation immediately.  This treatment path is called “watchful waiting”, and is becoming more and more common for men with prostate cancer.

To understand why watchful waiting is becoming a more popular trend, let’s back up a bit and explain a little more about the diagnosis of prostate cancer.  The average age of men diagnosed with prostate cancer is 66 years old.  Common treatment options for prostate cancer have included medication, surgery to remove the prostate, chemotherapy, radiation, and even hormone therapy.  And while these treatments have become more and more effective over the years, they cause unwanted side effects (such as incontinence and impotence) and pose serious risks (like blood clots in the legs and lungs, heart attack, pneumonia, and infections.)

There has been much debate around whether or not the benefits of treatment outweigh the added side effects and risks that are introduced when one undergoes these types of therapies.  Additionally, it is not clear if these treatment options will completely eliminate the cancer.  For those patients who are low risk, the benefit of aggressive treatment compared to the potential side effects may just not be worth it. 

What types of patients may be good candidates for watchful waiting?  Those who are not seeing any symptoms from the cancer, those whose cancer is small, and located only in the prostate, and those whose cancer is expected to grow slowly all may benefit from this type of treatment. 

Additionally, older men who have a life expectancy of less than 10 years may not benefit from the added years that surgery can offer, making them a better candidate for watchful waiting. 

However, if the cancer is growing steadily, or spreading beyond the prostate, more aggressive treatment is usually recommended.  Men who are diagnosed young may also benefit from more aggressive treatment, as there is a greater chance that the cancer may grow worse over a longer span of time.

Whatever stage you are at, only you and your doctor can decide what is best for you.  Be sure to talk with him or her about the risks and benefits associated with each treatment path prior to making a final decision. 

Ask The Expert: Surgery For BPH?

Ask The Expert: Surgery For BPH?

Each month, we ask our expert panel to answer one of our reader's questions. To learn more about the NAFC Expert Panel, and how to submit your own question, see below.

Question: What types of surgery options are available for BPH?

Answer: BPH, or Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, is when a man’s prostate is enlarged.  BPH is a common occurrence in aging men, but may not always require surgery.  Surgery may be considered if you have certain issues (you can’t urinate, have seen blood in your urine, have a partial blockage in your urethra, or have kidney damage), or if your symptoms are so bothersome that surgery makes sense to you.

The typical surgical option that is usually used is transurethral surgery of the prostate.  This is where surgical instruments are passed through the opening in the penis to the prostate. Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) is the most common type of transurethral surgery used for BPH. This is when a portion of the prostate is removed.  Other methods of removing some of the prostate include laser therapies, transurethral microwave therapy (TUMT), or transurethral needle ablation (TUNA).  Transurethral incision of the prostate (TUIP) is also sometimes used, which places incisions on the prostate which help to relax the opening to the bladder and allow urine to flow from the bladder more freely.

If you are considering surgery for BPH, talk with your doctor about these options and decide together which one may be the best for you.

The NAFC Expert Panel is made up of some of the top medical professionals in the fields of urology, urogynecology, physical therapy, and surgery. Each month, the experts weigh in on important topics and answers to your questions.  To have one of your questions featured in our Ask an Expert series, send it to us here.