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Why do prostate cancer treatments cause urinary incontinence?

Because the most common and troubling harms of surgery have to do with two basic bodily functions, the ability to control one's bladder and to have sex, there is a good possibility of suffering at least some erectile dysfunction (impotence) or urinary incontinence as a result of prostate cancer treatment.

Between 20 and 63 out of 100 men will require pads or clamps following surgery to control urinary dripping. For most it is mild, requiring no more than one protective pad per day. For some there is “stress incontinence,” the inability to control urine under stress (e.g., physical exertion, laughing, sneezing, etc.); this may occur in about 10 out of 100 cases. Severe incontinence, necessitating continuous wearing of protective pads, is unusual, occurring in about 1 to 7 out of 100 cases. Some men (perhaps 5 in 100) eventually require surgery to correct their urinary difficulties.

Nerve-sparing surgery may reduce the likelihood of mild incontinence in younger men to about 10 out of 100. Urethral strictures, which require at least one procedure to dilate the urethra, may develop due to scar tissue formation in about 10 to 20 out of every 100 cases.

Continue Learning about Urinary Incontinence

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.