Urinary incontinence following treatment of localized prostate cancer

Cancer Control. Nov-Dec 2001;8(6):532-9. doi: 10.1177/107327480100800608.


Background: Urinary incontinence (UI) following treatment for localized prostate cancer is a significant adverse consequence most commonly seen after radical prostatectomy. UI can significantly impair the quality of life of patients who can otherwise expect a long survival.

Methods: The authors review past and present literature on UI following treatment for localized prostate cancer. Special focus is placed on the rate of UI following different modes of therapy, the effect of posttreatment UI on patients' quality of life, and the success of different methods used to treat the incontinence.

Results: Postprostatectomy UI has been reported in 25%-70% of cases, but few patients report being significantly bothered by the symptom. Postradiation adverse effects are mainly acute inflammatory, while late complications are rare but usually more serious. Comparative studies estimate UI following prostatectomy to be two times more common than following radiation, and surgical patients are three times more likely to continue to use pads. Watchful waiting carries a risk of incontinence related to prostate tumor progression. Several interventions can improve UI.

Conclusions: UI is the most common adverse consequence from treatment for localized prostate cancer. All of the possible treatment modalities carry some risk of UI. Providing accurate information to patients allows them to make informed decisions regarding treatment and can improve the quality of life in the posttreatment period.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prostatectomy / adverse effects*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Quality of Life
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Urinary Incontinence / etiology*
  • Urinary Incontinence / therapy*