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Changes To Expect

Stress urinary incontinence

Stress urinary incontinence is the loss of a person’s ability to control their bladder— meaning that urine “leaks” from the body. It is a common side effect of many treatments for prostate cancer and can be temporary or permanent. About half of all men who have surgery for their prostate cancer, for example, will experience stress urinary incontinence. For most of these men, the situation is temporary.

Although it may seem like an embarrassing problem, stress urinary incontinence is a wide- spread condition in both women (as many of you already know!) and men, and there are many products, treatments and supports avail- able to help. A talk with the doctor and a visit to the Internet for tips can help. Here are a few lifestyle suggestions your partner might try:

  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Cut back on alcohol and consider reducing your caffeine intake.
  • If you’re overweight, consider a weight management program.
  • Spread out your beverages throughout the day and stop drinking a few hours before bedtime.
  • Schedule frequent and regular urination breaks. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
  • Check out the latest generation of incontinence pads and undergarments. They are much more streamlined than in the past!

Fecal incontinence

Fecal incontinence, rectal bleeding, bowel irritation and frequent bowel movements are relatively rare, but possible side effects of radiation therapy.

For some men, these side effects may lead to embarrassment and a withdrawal from relationships and favourite activities. But there is no shame in having this medical condition, and there is lots of help out there.

A conversation with the doctor is a good place to start. The doctor can offer advice on treatments and lifestyle changes, assist with skin irritation and provide a reference to a psychological specialist if needed.

Psychological issues

Like all people who receive a diagnosis of cancer, men who have just received word that they have prostate cancer can experience shock, confusion and despair. Even once treatment is complete, the side effects can lead to ongoing depression, embarrassment and feelings of a loss of masculinity and worries about a man’s place in his partnership and family.

To cope with these changes, some men withdraw and avoid discussion about their new reality while others become closer to their loved ones and feel better by sharing what they’re going through. Each man will need different kinds of support, from different types of people, at different times. And so will you. Here are some options for both of you, together and as individuals:

  • Share your feelings, concerns and successes with your partner.
  • Reach out to friends.
  • Read as much as you can about how to manage major life change (through self-help books, seminars and the Internet).
  • Join a prostate cancer support group.
  • Keep busy with activities you enjoy.
  • Make a special appointment with the doctor to talk only about the psychological aspects of the condition.
  • Seek a referral to a specialist who can help with the psychosocial impact of disease.