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Movember – Prostate & Testicular Cancer

At Physiotas this Movember we have been raising awareness for men’s physical and mental health. The aspect of Movember that focuses on physical health this month is dedicated to raising awareness for prostate & testicular cancer and the many struggles men can face after these cancers.

One in six Australian men will get will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime with 230,000 Australian men dealing with this at any one time. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men aged 15 to 39. Thanks to great advances in screening and technology the number of treatments available is increasing and the number of men dying from these cancers is dropping. However, there are some long-term and serious side effects that severely impact men’s quality of life after these treatments. This blog post will talk about incontinence after treatments for prostate cancer and testicular cancer and outline how exercise can help with these issues both physically and mentally.

Treatments for prostate cancer and testicular cancer often involve surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. These can treatments (which are life-saving) can, unfortunately, lead to damage to pelvic floor muscles and the bladder, which in turn can lead to incontinence.

Incontinence is the inability to control urine and after a prostatectomy, most patients experience some incontinence immediately after. In some men, continence is achieved after a few weeks but for others, it can take up to 12 months to recover. Some men’s continence unfortunately never returns. Incontinence can be embarrassing and socially isolating for many men which can negatively affect mental and physical health in a number of ways.

There are 3 main types of incontinence:
  1. Stress urinary incontinence: This is the most common type of incontinence after surgery. This occurs when the valve that shuts off the flow of urine from the bladder isn’t working as well as it normally would. As a result, when someone sneezes, coughs, laughs, exerts themselves or exercises they are more likely to experience incontinence due to the pressure being placed on the bladder and muscles of the pelvic floor.
  2. Overflow urinary incontinence: This occurs when men have trouble emptying their bladder usually due to a blockage somewhere or the nerve that communicates with the bladder has been damaged. This leads to urine leakage as the bladder becomes too full because of not passing urine normally.
  3. Urge incontinence: This type of incontinence occurs when people get the sudden urge to urinate. A common reason is that the bladder becomes over-sensitive following treatment and signals that you need to go to the toilet more often than you actually have to.

Pelvic floor anatomy

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that stretch like a hammock from the pubic bone at the front to your tailbone at the back. They also stretch from one side of your pelvis to the other. These muscles act like a sling or a hammock to help support the muscles and the organs in and around your pelvis as well as control urinary and bowel continence. The Urethra is the passage from the bladder through which urine travels through the pelvic floor muscles. Usually, the pelvic floor muscles are wrapped tightly around the urethra and can stop the flow of urine when they contract. However, injury to these muscles is a common side effect of treatments for prostate and testicular cancer.

So, what can be done about this?

Luckily this is something that can be treated effectively usually without the need for further invasive procedures. Most men recover their continence after 12 months. Pelvic floor muscle training has been shown to improve the rate of return incontinence and decrease the overall number of men who are incontinent a year after surgery.

Here is a video from the Continence Foundation of Australia that outlines the functions and exercises for the pelvic floor in more depth – https://youtu.be/rQQSqLCF12g

The aim of pelvic floor muscle retraining is to improve the function of the muscles in and around the pelvic floor and testicles. This helps with the function of closing off the urethra by using the muscles around the urethra to help put a kink in the hose (urethra) to stop the unwanted flow of urine.

There are many other strategies that can be used to help retrain bladder behaviours that can make a large difference to the quality of life. If you are experiencing incontinence after prostatectomy or other treatments related to prostate and testicular cancer, then physiotherapy may be your next port of call. Helping these problems can be important for returning to normal exercise, social outings as well as reducing the emotional and mental stress that comes along with incontinence.

Booking at Physiotas

You can contact our practice to book with one of our practitioners by clicking on the Book Online button or by phoning your local practice.

Burnie – 6411 1081
Devonport/Latrobe – 6424 7511
Launceston – 6334 0622
Shearwater – 6428 7500
Ulverstone – 6425 5997