Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence can be a consequence of cancer or cancer treatment and can be an important quality of life issue for many survivors.

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 can also trigger incontinence:1

  • Breast cancer – hormonal therapy can dry out vaginal tissues and trigger incontinence.
  • Lung or esophageal cancer – a chronic cough can strain the muscles involved in urination.
  • Brain or spinal cord tumours – these may impact the nerves that control urination.

Several treatments for cancer can also cause incontinence, including:2

  • Radiation to the pelvic area, which irritates the bladder.
  • Chemotherapy, which can cause nerve damage and hormonal changes.
  • Surgery to the pelvic area, which may damage muscles or nerves.
  • Medications that increase hydration or urine production, which can make incontinence worse.
  • Treatments causing early menopause.

If you are having trouble with your bladder, talk to your doctor. They can give you helpful advice and techniques to aid with incontinence.

Treatments will typically include bladder training, such as learning to delay or time voiding, fluid and diet management, medication, and improving muscle control. In extreme cases, surgery, catheterization, and Botox may also be used to improve bladder control.3

Video Resources:


  1. https://siteman.wustl.edu/treatment/survivorship/incontinence-bowelbladder/
  2. https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/physical-emotional-and-social-effects-cancer/managing-physical-side-effects/urinary-incontinence
  3. https://www.livestrong.org/we-can-help/finishing-treatment/urinary-incontinence