What causes bowel and bladder dysfunction?

Many people experience changes in their bowel and or bladder control after cancer treatment.

Bladder side-effects

  • Leaking of urine (incontinence)
  • A feeling of wanting to go to the toilet and you cannot wait (urgency)
  • A need to pass urine often (frequency)
  • A burning sensation when you pass urine (cystitis)

Bowel side-effects

  • Loose stools, diarrhoea or constipation
  • A need to open your bowel urgently
  • Discomfort in the back passage
  • Abdominal discomfort or pain

If you have had an operation that removes part of your bowel or bladder (for example for prostate or womb cancer) or have had pelvic radiotherapy, you may no longer have full control over your bowel or bladder.

As part of your surgery you may have had a stoma (colostomy bag) placed to

Bowel and bladder problems can be upsetting and embarrassing. You may also feel less confident as a result of such problems.

You may find it more difficult to go back to normal activities such as socialising or returning to work. Most problems improve with time, but sometimes problems can get worse. Some changes to your bowel or bladder can be permanent.

Speak to your nurse specialist, GP or hospital doctor, as treatment is available to help long-lasting urinary or bowel problems.


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