Just Can’t Hold It?

Prostate cancer can cause urinary incontinence, but you can put the urge to rest and reclaim control. Here’s how.

Kathleen Engel
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Incontinence or urine leakage is common among men with prostate cancer. Surgery or radiation therapy can weaken the muscles that help you control your urine, creating a sudden sensation of urgency. The good news: You can take a few steps to regain control of your bladder. 

Start doing Kegels.
They aren’t just for women! A study published in the journal European Urology found that men who start Kegel exercises—repeated contractions of the pelvic floor muscles—30 days prior to prostatectomy regained bladder control sooner and enjoyed a better quality of life than men who didn’t perform the exercises. To maintain muscle tone, exercise your pelvic floor muscles regularly. Once you’ve strengthened these muscles, continue to perform at least one set of Kegel exercises each day.

While urinating or sitting on the toilet, practice contracting the muscles that stop urine flow or prevent you from passing gas. Avoid tensing other muscles.

Here, some simple tips:

  • Hold each contraction for five to 10 seconds. Relax the muscles, then repeat.
  • Perform three sets of 10 contractions.
  • Perform Kegel exercises at least three times a day.

Watch what you eat.
Avoiding foods thought to be bladder irritants, such as caffeine (yes, that includes chocolate!), spices, citrus and tomatoes, may help ease the urge.

Watch what you drink.
How much you drink—and when you drink it—can affect your bladder. Ask your doctor about a schedule that makes sense for you. Also, avoid acidic beverages (such as OJ) and those containing alcohol and caffeine.

January 2013