Incontinence is a possible side effect of treatment for prostate, bowel, bladder, and some gynaecological cancers.
Incontinence and cancer
Incontinence means you have trouble controlling when and how you pee (urinating) and poo (passing a bowel motion).
Incontinence can be caused by weak pelvic floor muscles. It's also one possible side effect of treatment for cancer of the prostate, bladder, bowel, penis, vagina, vulva, cervix or uterus.
There are different types of incontinence:
- stress incontinence - leaking pee (urine) when coughing, sneezing or laughing
- urge incontinence - not being able to hold on when you need to go to the toilet
People may find they leak pee after they urinate or after an orgasm
Pelvic exercises to improve bladder control
You may be able to improve your bladder control with pelvic floor exercises.
The pelvic floor is a layer of muscle that stretches from your pubic bone in the front to your tail bone in the back. It supports the bladder, uterus and bowel.
Steps to finding your pelvic floor muscles
To do pelvic floor exercises, you first need to find and feel them in your body:
- Sit on a chair, leaning forward with your knees slightly apart.
- Now imagine that you are trying to stop yourself from farting. You should be aware of the skin around your anus tightening, and being pulled up and away from the chair. Your bum and legs should not move at all.
- Now imagine that you are sitting on a toilet peeing. Try to stop your stream of pee. This will help you to identify the right muscle. Again, you should feel a lifting and tightening.
Practising your pelvic floor exercises
- Sit, stand or lie with your knees slightly apart.
- Slowly tighten and draw up around the anus and urethra (and vagina for women) all at once, lifting them up inside. Try to hold for a count of three, then release and relax. You should feel in control of the whole contraction with a deﬁnite “letting go” sensation at the end.
- Rest for ten seconds.
- Repeat and squeeze and lift and relax. If you ﬁnd holding for three seconds easy, aim to progressively hold for longer – up to ten seconds.
- Repeat this combination of contractions and rest periods as many times as possible – up to ten times.
- Now do ﬁve to ten short, quick but strong contractions.
- Aim to do this whole exercise routine several times each day.
- Tighten the pelvic floor muscles just before you lift something, cough, sneeze, laugh, lean forwards etc.
We are here to help and support you and your whānau through cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery…
You may have bowel problems like constipation, diarrhoea and flatulence.
Eating well is important for keeping well, especially when you have cancer.
Keeping active before, during and after cancer treatment is important for your health and wellbeing.