Surviving Cancer

Frequently Asked Questions

20. What can I do about bowel and bladder problems that may occur?

Bladder and bowel problems are among the most upsetting issues people face after cancer treatment. People often feel ashamed or fearful to go out in public, because they worry about having an "accident." This loss of control can happen after treatment for bladder, prostate, colon, rectal, ovarian, or other gynecologic or abdominal cancers.

Some surgeries to treat cancer may leave a patient with little or no bladder or bowel control. The opposite problem can happen with some medicines that cause constipation. For some people the problems improve over time, but others may experience long-term issues.

It is very important to tell your doctor about any changes in your bladder or bowel habits. Several things may help, such as medications, changes in diet or fluid intake, and exercises. Joining a support group also may be helpful, especially for survivors who have an ostomy (an opening in the body to pass waste material).