Georgia's Online Cancer Information Center


Incontinence is certainly not a topic that many enjoy discussing, however, it is important that we discuss it because it affects many survivors during and after treatment on a daily basis. Incontinence is the lack of voluntary control over urination or defecation and impacts millions per year but especially survivors. We surveyed hundreds of Georgia's cancer survivors and 23% of respondents expressed that they have or had issues with incontinence and need help. Additionally, more than 25 million Americans are impacted by incontinence.

There are four different types of incontinence:

  1. Stress Urinary Incontinence occurs when the pelvic floor muscles (which hold the pelvic organs in place) have become weak, and can no longer support the bladder and urethra the way they should. Coughing, sneezing, bending, lifting, straining or even laughing, could put enough pressure on the bladder causing it to leak.

  2. Overactive Bladder is associated with a sudden strong urge to void. Many related this to the feeling of "I have to go right now." 

  3. Overflow Incontinence is when the bladder stays full. It cannot empty and so it overflows and leaks. Signs include multiple, small urinations each day, or ongoing dribbling. 

  4. Mixed Incontinence is when someone is experiencing a combination of any of the above.

Incontinence can be caused by a number of factors such as: 

  • Radiation to certain parts of the body like the genital areas, pelvis or stomach
  • Prostate cancer or surgery
  • Nervous system disorders and nerve damage
  • Pregnancy
  • Hormonal changes
  • Stress
  • Muscle weakness or lack of activity


If you are experiencing incontinence, it's important to speak to your provider team about the concern along with any other systems that you may be experiencing. Your provider should ask questions to determine more about your experience and suggest options to manage it. Below are a few ways that you might combat or best manage incontinence:

  • Train your bladder by going at specific times (read more here)
  • Perform kegel exercises by strengthening related muscles
  • Lose weight to a healthy weight recommended for you
  • Evaluate eating habits and ensure that your intake of certain foods isn't making leakage worse
  • Treat constipation
  • Medication
  • Surgery: potential options are a urethral sling or a scrotal pump (advanced cases)
  • Electrical stimulation


Last Updated: 10/30/2020 9:38:42 AM

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