Complications from Prostate Cancer Treatment

When men experience incontinence, can stem from radical prostate surgery for cancer. Radical prostatectomy is complete removal of the prostate, which is performed only for prostate cancer. Often, this procedure also injures a part of the urinary sphincter. After the procedure, continence depends on the remaining sphincter muscles, leaving some people incontinent. We call this post-prostatectomy incontinence (PPI).

If you have PPI, there is a very good chance that the sphincter will heal itself over time and incontinence will no longer be a problem. This healing process can take up to a year. In 5 to 30 percent of patients, incontinence persists.

After radical prostatectomy, you might develop some degree of incontinence for a few days or weeks. Most people regain normal urination within a few weeks or months.  At Mount Sinai, we typically take a conservative approach until the condition heals or it becomes obvious that you are no longer improving.  This usually means between 9 and 12 months.

Treatment Options

For mild leakage, sometimes exercises to strengthen the sphincter using biofeedback can be helpful to speed up the recovery process. For incontinence that does not resolve a year after surgery, material to strengthen or bulk up the sphincter can be injected in the office.  For more significant incontinence, surgery with either a urethral sling or an artificial urinary sphincter can cure the problem.