Many cancer patients have bladder problems. You may wet yourself or need to urinate (pee) very often. Some people can have minor leaks of urine. This is called urinary incontinence. There are many types of urinary incontinence. Here are 3 common types:

  1. Stress incontinence. This happens when you leak urine when you do things that add pressure to your bladder. This may include laughing, sneezing, coughing, lifting something heavy.
  2. Urge incontinence. This happens when you need to urinate very suddenly. This can happen often during the day and at night. You may not have enough time to get to a toilet before some urine leaks.
  3. Overflow incontinence. This happens when you leak some urine because your bladder is full. This may just be a small amount of urine.



Urinary incontinence can be caused by:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Some medicines
  • Cancer itself


What you can do

Talk to your doctor. Only your doctor can help with some causes of bladder problems. Your doctor can talk to you about different options that may help. You may need special tests to find out what is happening in your body. You may need a referral to a specialist. Your doctor may also adjust or prescribe new medicine to see if it helps.

Before you visit your doctor, write down how bladder problems are affecting your life. Bring this list with you to the appointment.

​​Tips to Improve Your Bladder Control

You can also try these tips to help improve your bladder control:

  1. Kegel exercises. To do kegel exercises:
    1. Squeeze the muscles that prevent you from passing gas or emptying your bladder
    2. Hold while counting to 3
    3. Then relax them while counting to 3
    10 exercises are called 1 set. Do 1 set, 5 times a day.
    For more information on these exercises, read the resource called Urinary Incontinence: Pelvic Floor Exercises. You can find it in the Princess Margaret Patient and Family Library. See also: Princess Margaret Patient and Family Library »
  2. Bladder training. There are 2 ways you can train your bladder:
    1. Wait a little before you urinate. You can begin with very small waiting times, such as a few minutes. Later, you can wait longer and longer.
    2. Plan your washroom breaks. For example, you can plan to empty your bladder every 2 hours. You can remind yourself by setting an alarm on your watch or phone.
  3. Body weight. If you are overweight, losing weight may improve your bladder problems. The Canadian Food Guide has information about healthy eating. Talk to your family doctor for more help. See Canada's Food Guide [opens in new window] »
  4. Avoid certain fluids. Some fluids can make bladder problems worse. Avoid:
    • Drinks that contain caffeine, such as: coffee, black tea, soda
    • Drinks that contain alcohol, such as: beer, wine, liquor
  5. Stop smoking. If you smoke cigarettes, try to stop smoking; it may help your bladder problems. It may also have other health benefits for you. Talk to your family doctor about ways to stop smoking.
  6. Absorbent products. If you cannot control your bladder in public, you can wear absorbent pads. This will help protect your clothes from getting wet and avoid embarrassment. This way you can continue doing the things you do in your regular day.


More information


Last reviewed: 11/4/2019
Last modified: 3/29/2023 9:37 AM
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