There are a range of things you can do to improve, and help you cope with, your urinary side effects. If you require assistance with any of these self-help measures, contact the health professionals or organisations listed in this section.
- Continence products: There are a range of continence products to help manage urinary incontinence. Pads are an effective first choice. Supermarkets and pharmacies stock ranges specifically designed for men. Pads are to be worn with firm-fitting underwear, not boxer shorts. Ensure you change pads regularly, keeping your skin clean and dry to avoid irritation.
‘There was a continence nurse who explained a lot of the things that were supplied like the incontinence aids... for the five years since I’ve had the operation, I’ve had to find what suits me by experimenting with the products that were available.’
Continence products can be costly. Continence or urology nurses can provide advice about continence products including information on possible financial assistance schemes to assist with costs. The Continence Aids Payment Scheme (CAPS) can provide financial assistance for continence products (see www.bladderbowel.gov.au/caps/capsfaq.htm).
NOTE: Ensure you have a continence pad with you for the day of your catheter removal following radical prostatectomy. It is quite common to experience urinary leakage at this stage.
- Pelvic floor exercises: These are essential and should ideally commence prior to and following prostate cancer treatment. The pelvic floor muscles help control your bladder and strengthening them using the correct technique is vital. If you are unsure of the technique or require further assistance, a continence physiotherapist, continence nurse or urology nurse can assist.
‘I found out about how to do pelvic floor muscles myself, and I found out all that sort of stuff... I did a lot of that work on my own.’
NOTE: Do not perform your pelvic floor exercises while you have a catheter in (e.g. following prostate cancer surgery).
- Avoid constipation: Eating a diet high in fibre such as wholegrain breads and cereal, fresh fruit and vegetables, and drinking 1.5 to 2 litres of water a day will help to prevent constipation. Constipation or hard stools cause you to strain and this can weaken your pelvic floor muscles. The pressure from a full bowel can cause bladder pain or discomfort. It can also affect the amount of urine your bladder can hold and require you to urinate more urgently or frequently.
- Quit smoking: Smoking can affect your bladder in two ways. It acts as an irritant to the bladder, and coughing can weaken the pelvic floor.
- Avoid drinks or food that cause bladder irritation: Caffeine (tea, coffee, cola drinks), alcohol, citrus juices, drinks with artificial sweeteners, citrus fruits, tomatoes and tomato-based products, spicy or acidic foods can cause bladder irritation. Water is the most beneficial drink that you can have. You may need to plan when to drink your fluids, for example, by cutting back fluids in the evening to prevent getting up at night.
- Lose weight if required: Excess body weight puts extra pressure on the bladder, which can increase urgency urinary symptoms.
- Diabetes: If you are diabetic, ensure your blood glucose levels are regulated. Urinary issues can be affected by unstable blood glucose levels.
- Exercise: This assists in maintaining a healthy weight as well as preventing constipation. Regular exercise helps you to sleep well, and is beneficial for your overall wellbeing.
- Rest and relaxation: Rest is as important as exercise, particularly in the early stages following or during treatment. Many men report their urinary side effects are worse at the end of the day when they are tired or fatigued. Regular periods of rest can prevent this.
- Toilet maps: These can be helpful in locating toilet facilities in unfamiliar areas or when planning outings. Maps are available at www.toiletmap.gov.au.
- Prostate cancer support groups: These groups are located all around Australia. Seeking support and advice from men who are in similar situations to you can be valuable in coping with urinary side effects.
MANAGING THE COST OF TREATMENT
The Australian Government subsidises the cost of listed prescription medicine to all residents and eligible overseas visitors through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (www.pbs.gov.au/info/about-the-pbs). Not everything relating to your cancer treatment may be covered by the scheme so check with your doctor when they prescribe a medication or refer you to a service. If you have private health insurance, check what your policy will cover so that you are prepared for any possible financial outlays.
Talk to a member of your healthcare team (e.g. social worker) about what financial and practical support services are available. Talk to your local Medicare office about the ‘Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Safety Net’ and the ‘Medicare Safety Net’ on costs of medications and medical bills (www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/medicare/pbs-safety-net and
WHERE TO GET MORE INFORMATION
Listed below are some of the leading organisations and services that can provide you with accurate information and support about urinary problems following prostate cancer treatment.
- The Localised Prostate Cancer Pack is a resource for men affected by localised prostate cancer. It provides information on how localised prostate cancer is diagnosed, treatment options, managing side effects and wellbeing.
- The Advanced Prostate Cancer Pack is a resource for men affected by different stages of advanced cancer, including locally advanced disease. It provides information on how advanced prostate cancer is diagnosed, treatment options, managing side effects and wellbeing.
- Allingham, C. (2013). Prostate recovery MAP: Men’s Action Plan. Buderim: Redsok
- Chambers, S. (2013). Facing the Tiger – A Guide for Men with Prostate Cancer and the People who Love Them. Toowong: Australian Academic Press
- Dornan, P. (2003). Conquering Incontinence: A new and physical approach to a freer lifestyle exercise. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin
For more information about prostate cancer and symptom management, PCFA has a number of resources.
Please visit PCFA website
or call: (02) 9438 7000/1800 220 099 (freecall).
Please note: If calling from overseas, the country code for Australia is +61
There is a range of things you can do to improve and help you cope with your urinary side effects.