Bladder cancer remains one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers. However, the complications that come with bladder cancer are often misunderstood. One particular struggle that is rarely spoken of is urinary incontinence.
Dorothy Smith, director of Clinic Relations, Des Chutes Medical asserts “Urinary incontinence is a common complication of cancer and cancer therapies that can impose long-term effects on quality of life”.
Many caregivers may not understand the physiological effects certain cancers can have on continence. It has also become a habit for continent individuals to consider leakages natural progression of age. As a consequences, incontinence is often not considered to be a quality of life concern in the medical world. Incontinence researcher Mrs Smith asserts, “I have seen patients who have experienced for 10 or 11 years. However, neither the patient nor the physician has associated the incontinence with cancer or cancer treatment”.
What is the Link Between Bladder Cancer and Incontinence?
Understanding how the bladder works can make the relationship between incontinence and bladder cancer clearer. The bladder is a muscular sac in the pelvis. It is a hollow, balloon-like organ that is designed to hold urine. Urine flows from the bladder through the urethra and out of the body. Our sphincter muscles act like a valve that holds urine in and releases it when necessary. These muscles work with nerves that carry signals to them and the bladder to control urination. When these muscles are damaged due to cancer, this can cause a lack of control and unwanted leakages.
Treatment for cancer can also often cause incontinence. Combined therapy poses an even greater risk of incontinence. During surgery, there is a possibility of the peripheral nerves that help control bladder function being cut damaged. Many anticancer agents have been shown to attack the mechanisms that control continence with severe results. Radiation therapy in particular is known to commonly cause incontinence. Three-dimensional radiation therapy enables doctors to conform the radiation to the prostate and spare the rectum. However, physicians often can not spare the rectum. This exposure can cause the urethra to become dry and thin and lose tissue layers. This can often result in incontinence. However, recent advances in radiation therapy techniques and equipment have enabled Doctors to spare normal tissue and reduce the risk of urinary problems. Chemotherapy can also lead to peripheral nerve neuropathy, causing a loss of control over urination.
To improve treatment and awareness, both patients and medical staff need to be educated about the risk of incontinence presented by certain cancers. There are a variety of treatment options to choose from to treat your incontinence caused by bladder cancer. Talking to a Doctor can help you establish the most effective treatment method for you. Popular treatment methods include pelvic muscle exercises, biofeedback, urge suppression techniques, prompted voiding, dietary and fluid management and double voiding.
Spreading awareness of both incontinence and bladder cancer is vital to encourage others to seek help.
“It Won’t Happen To Me”
Bladder cancer is both a sensitive and scary topic. Many people tend to watch the disease happen to others, however never consider that it could happen to them. The common signs to look out for include the following:
- Pain during urination
- Feeling the need to urinate many times during the night (Nocturnal Enuresis)
- Not being able to pass urine
- Lower back pain on one side of the body
- Frequent urination
- Blood in the urine