Incontinence (bowel/bladder)

Download Patient Education Handout (bladder)

Download Patient Education Handout (bowel)

We get it. Incontinence is an embarrassing issue that most people would rather not talk about, let alone seek treatment. The reality, though, is that urinary incontinence impacts more than 25 million people in the United States, including cancer survivors. More importantly, there are many treatment options available to men and women so that you can improve the quality of your life.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that urinary incontinence affects only those diagnosed with prostate cancer or cancers of the pelvis, such as the bladder or rectum.  But other cancers also can trigger incontinence:

  • Breast cancer — hormonal therapies can dry out vaginal or urethral tissues and trigger incontinence
  • Lung/Esophageal cancer — a chronic cough can strain or stretch the muscles involved in urination
  • Brain or Spinal Cord Tumors — these can impact the nerves that control bladder or pelvic muscles

Nausea or vomiting that sometimes occurs during any cancer treatment also can lead to stress incontinence.

Talk frankly with your doctor if you have incontinence issues because these symptoms can be managed. Behavioral therapy, dietary changes, medications, electrical stimulation devices and surgical procedures are all effective options to deal with either stress or urge incontinence. At Washington University School of Medicine, we also have a dedicated interdisciplinary group of urologic specialists who treat urinary and bowel incontinence as well as other pelvic floor disorders in the Center for Colorectal and Pelvic Floor Disorders (COPE).