Bladder Control Problems (Incontinence)

When you lose control of your urine or have leaking or dribbling, it’s called urinary incontinence. Many men have incontinence after treatment for prostate cancer, but it can also happen to both men and women after being treated for other cancers. Other cancer treatments that may cause urinary and bladder problems include radiation therapy to the pelvis (including reproductive organs, the bladder, colon, and rectum), and some types of chemotherapy and immunotherapy can also affect or damage cells in the bladder and kidneys.

Some cancers and treatments may cause incontinence, but it often goes away completely.

Types of Incontinence

  • Stress incontinence may cause you to leak urine when you cough, laugh, sneeze, lift heavy objects, or exercise.
  • Overflow incontinence happens when the bladder does not empty well and urine overflows because it is more than the bladder can hold. It may cause you to leak urine throughout the day.
  • Urge incontinence happens when the bladder muscle contracts too often. It usually occurs suddenly and without warning, and you cannot control it. This is also known as overactive bladder.
  • Learn more about the different types of incontinence.

Dealing with Incontinence

If you have problems with incontinence, let your doctor know. You might feel embarrassed talking about it, but remember that this is a common problem and there ways to help.

 

Treatment Options

  • Talk to your doctor about all medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements you’re taking. Some may affect urine control. Use this medication chart to keep track of everything you’re taking.
  • Ask your doctor to suggest ways to help you with incontinence, such as:
    • Kegel exercises, which help strengthen the muscles that support your bladder and help control urine flow.
    • Catheters to collect urine.
    • Compression (pressure) devices, which can be placed on the penis for short periods to help keep urine from coming out.
    • Medicines that help control the bladder and muscles related to urine flow.
  • Learn more about these and other treatment options for incontinence in men with cancer, and learn more about urinary and bladder problems generally.
  • Follow these and other simple precautions, which may help make incontinence less of a problem:
    • Empty your bladder before bedtime or before strenuous activity.
    • Avoid drinking too much fluid, particularly drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
    • Quit smoking to reduce coughing and bladder irritation caused by tobacco use.

Get Support

For more detailed information on support options, visit Get Support.

Talk to Your Health Care Team

Your health care team needs to know how you’re doing. Be sure to tell them about any changes you notice.

Talk to Family and Friends

Your loved ones want to support you. They can help with activities like housework, running errands, and getting to appointments. Be as specific as possible about the kind of help you need.

Find Peer Support

Talk About Your Concerns

Peer groups offer a welcoming environment to share your feelings and experiences with people who are going through the same things. Use the American Cancer Society’s Resource Search to find a peer group in your area or call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 for personalized assistance.

Visit the Cancer Survivors Network Online

The Cancer Survivors Network is an online community with more than 40 discussion boards where cancer survivors share their cancer-related experiences, support one another, and exchange practical tips.

NCI Cancer Information Service

Call

Speak to a National Cancer Institute health information specialist by calling 1-800-4-Cancer.

Chat

The National Cancer Institute offers live, online assistance through its LiveHelp service.

ACS National Cancer Information Center

Get Tips

Get information and tips from a cancer information specialist at the American Cancer Society by calling 1-800-227-2345. Lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Chat

The American Cancer Society offers live, online assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Select the Live Chat option from any page on cancer.org.

Learn More About Incontinence

The National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society have additional resources to help you, including urinary and bladder problems and managing incontinence for men with cancer.