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Female Sexuality and Cancer

Managing Incontinence and Leaking of Urine


What is urinary incontinence?

  • Urinary incontinence is​ the accidental release of urine.
  • It’s common for you to lose some bladder control after treatments for cancer of the pelvis (e.g., radiation, surgery). This can be embarrassing and disrupt daily activities. Even if you have good bladder control during the day, you might still have incontinence when you sneeze, cough, or laugh (stress incontinence).

How is incontinence treated?

There are treatments for incontinence and ways to help you manage it at home.

What is the pelvic floor?

The pelvic floor is a hammock of muscles and ligaments across the bottom of your pelvis.

What is pelvic floor physiotherapy?

  • Pelvic floor mu​scle strength is an important part of bladder control. Strong pelvic muscles can help you decrease incontinence and help the bladder hold urine when you feel the urge.
  • If you do pelvic floor exercises regularly, incontinence may get better after a couple of months. If symptoms don’t get better, talk to your doctor.
  • To find a physiotherapist that treats incontinence, go to and do a search for urinary incontinence (women).

How do I manage incontinence and sex?

Some couples struggle with urine leaking during sex. These ideas might help:

  • lay a towel out on the bed before sex—if urine leaks, the towel will absorb it
  • keep a warm, wet cloth near you for easy clean up if needed
  • remember that urine doesn’t have any germs in it, so it isn’t harmful if it leaks while having sex
  • try having sex in the shower or bath

What if my incontinence isn’t getting better?

Some women with very bad stress incontinence might need surgery. Your doctor might want you to wait until after your cancer treatments to have surgery. Many doctors recommend waiting at least 1 year before having surgery for incontinence.

Your doctor will tell you what surgery is best for you. The different types of surgery for incontinence include:​

  • tension-free vaginal tape
  • retropubic suspension
  • urethral bulking
  • urethral sling
  • electrical stimulation​​​

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