Men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer often find themselves faced with the need to have a prostatectomy, a surgery that facilitates the removal of the prostate. Prostate surgery can be a life-saving choice in this scenario, making it a fairly straightforward decision for most men to make.
What’s not so straightforward, though, are the potential outcomes that come post-prostatectomy.
Like all surgical procedures, a prostatectomy is not something done without risk. There are many different side effects that can impact a person after prostate surgery. One of the more common ones is dealing with post-prostatectomy urinary incontinence.
If you have had prostate surgery and believe you are dealing with incontinence post-prostatectomy, you’re not alone. There are lots of men out there who have found themselves in the same position, and there ARE things you can do to alleviate symptoms and seek treatment.
What is it Like to Struggle with Incontinence Post-Prostatectomy?
To learn more about what dealing with urinary incontinence post-prostate surgery is like, let’s look at Peter’s story (not his real name).
Peter, aged 66, is faced with having to choose if he wants to have a prostatectomy after receiving a prostate cancer diagnosis. This is a tough decision to make because of the potential risk factors: urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction, and bleeding – just to name a few.
Despite the risks, Peter knows he needs the prostatectomy to save his life, so he decides to have the surgery. He didn’t believe any of the potential risk factors would last past the recovery period, during which they are common issues to experience.
Unfortunately, well after his surgery, Peter still finds himself dealing with urine leakage. Peter begins to develop depression, as he still has to wear incontinence pads post-surgery. Socialising is difficult, as he is nervous about bladder control in public. Because this issue has to do with urine leakage, he feels a lot of embarrassment and shame.
Peter eventually realises that he needs help, so he decides to reach out to his GP. They link him up with a pelvic health clinic, which begins the process of using physio to give him better bladder function. Now, Peter is getting help and on his way back to living life as normal!
There are many people who, like Peter, may find themselves dealing with urinary issues after prostate cancer surgery, but feelings of shame prevent them from reaching out to help.
The good news to note is that these days, severe incontinence is becoming less likely after surgery, with new treatments used to address post-prostatectomy incontinence.
Understanding Post-Prostatectomy Incontinence
Let’s learn more about what this condition is, to gain a better understanding of how it affects the body.
What Is Urinary Incontinence?
Urinary incontinence refers to a loss of bladder control, and an inability to control urination. In many cases, this will lead to a patient regularly experiencing involuntary leakage.
There are many different forms of incontinence that people can struggle with, depending on their unique urinary symptoms, including stress urinary incontinence and urge incontinence.
Why Does Incontinence Happen After Prostate Surgery?
It is common for urinary problems to happen during the recovery process from prostate surgery, but when they persist after a year of recovery, it’s safe to say a person is struggling with persisting incontinence.
The reason urinary incontinence is so common after men have had prostate surgery is because of how delicate the area is, and how close the prostate is to a person’s urinary system. In fact, the prostate acts as an additional mechanism in providing pressure around the urethra.
When men have an enlarged prostate, or tumour as a result of prostate cancer, it can press on the urethra. With added pressure along the urethral length, urine will struggle to leave the body, making bladder emptying an issue. This mechanism is involved in maintaining continence. Once the prostate is removed, the pelvic floor muscles are required to work harder to maintain urethral pressure.
The place where the bladder and urethra join is supported by a ring of muscles known as the urinary sphincter, which opens and closes to control urine flow. Sometimes during prostate surgery, the urinary sphincter can become damaged, leading to incontinence and bladder dysfunction issues.
Another part of the system that surgery can damage is a person’s pelvic floor muscles, which sit below the prostate. These muscles are needed for bladder control, but if they become damaged, it can cause incontinence.
What are Post Prostatectomy Incontinence Symptoms?
The most common sign a person is struggling with this condition is a loss of bladder control that persists for over 12 months after prostate surgery. Other indicators include:
- Urine leakage when straining/coughing/lifting
- Strong urges to urinate
- Urine leakage, even after urinating
- The need to use continence pads 12 months post-surgery.
Getting Help for Post Prostatectomy Incontinence
If you are struggling with urinary incontinence issues after surgery, there are different treatments one can do to address the issue. The best way to get help is to receive a diagnosis and treatment plan from a physiotherapist, who can help you find the correct therapies to gain better bladder control.
To begin the process, a diagnosis is made, often by performing a physical exam and ultrasound that assesses the pelvic floor. Then treatment can begin.
Common incontinence treatments post-prostatectomy include:
Using Containment Products
While this will not cure the condition, containment products can alleviate the anxiety surrounding potential urine leakage in public.
Pelvic Floor Training
Performing pelvic floor exercises can do wonders to help a person gain back better bladder control, retraining key muscles in their system. The specific pelvic floor muscle exercise needed for you will vary, depending on recommendations from your healthcare professional.
Shockwave Therapy / Emsella Chair Treatments
Electric stimulation is becoming a popular way to address issues like stress incontinence and post-surgery incontinence.
Shockwave Therapy involves sending pressure waves into the body to stimulate the muscles. When we do this, we can decrease bladder overactivity and improve urinary leakage.
Emsella Chair treatments are similar, using high-intensity electromagnetic technology to stimulate the pelvic floor muscles. This treatment method has been proven to improve stress urinary incontinence up to 95% of the time!
Surgery is a last resort, but can help people who have exhausted other methods.
Surgical treatments can include urethral sling surgery, or surgery to give a patient an artificial urinary sphincter. Both of these procedures have been proven to help alleviate this condition.
Need Help? Just Ask Us!
If you are struggling with incontinence after prostate surgery, we’re ready to help! Click here to contact our team and book a consultation, so we can get you on the road to treatment