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!

Patient Perspective: Brad's Story

Brad's Story - Opening Up About Incontinence

My friends and I are close. Growing up in a small town, we’ve always been there for each other – to joke with, lean on in hard times, and to razz each other. We have a tight-knit group of 5 and they’ve been my chosen family since I was 12. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since our early days, but here we all are.

I experienced incontinence after having my prostate removed in 2013. It wasn’t a fun thing to go through, and I certainly didn’t enjoy it, but the one thing that made it easier was that I knew to expect it – and that I wasn’t the only one.

You see, one of my buddies in our group, Joe, had also gone through something similar a few years back. He pulled me aside before surgery and told me that the worst thing that was going to happen was that I’d probably have some leaks – maybe a lot. It had happened to him for at least a year after his surgery and he said it was “hell “.

But he told me that the thing that had made it worse was not knowing it was coming, That was why he was talking to me – he wanted to me to know that I wasn’t alone. And, if it weren’t for his advice and pick-me-up talks, I don’t know how I would have gotten through that first year.

I’ve recovered well and don’t really experience the leaks anymore. But I still talk about it. Because that’s what we should all do with those we are close to. You never know who might benefit from your experience, or who might also go through something similar and just need a friend or to know they are not alone.

Don’t let your own embarrassment get in the way of opening up to your loved ones. I’m sure glad Joe didn’t.
 
Brad T., Auburn, AL