Can Chemotherapy Cause Urinary Incontinence?

Chemotherapy, while effective in treating cancer, can have various side effects, and some of these side effects may affect the urinary system. While urinary incontinence (the involuntary leakage of urine) is not a common or direct side effect of chemotherapy, certain factors associated with chemotherapy treatments might contribute to urinary issues in some individuals.

Chemotherapy can lead to various side effects that indirectly impact the urinary system:

  • Nerve damage: Some chemotherapy drugs may cause peripheral neuropathy, which is damage to the nerves that can affect sensations in the hands, feet, and potentially other parts of the body. While neuropathy more commonly affects the hands and feet, it might also impact nerves controlling bladder function, potentially leading to bladder control problems or urinary symptoms.
  • Bladder irritation: Certain chemotherapy medications can irritate the bladder lining, leading to symptoms such as urgency, frequency, or discomfort during urination. This irritation might result in changes in urinary habits but may not necessarily cause urinary incontinence unless there are other underlying factors.
  • Weakening of pelvic floor muscles: Chemotherapy, along with other cancer treatments, can be physically taxing on the body. Prolonged periods of inactivity or muscle weakness resulting from treatment may affect the pelvic floor muscles, which play a crucial role in controlling urinary function. Weakness in these muscles could contribute to urinary issues, including incontinence.

It’s essential to note that urinary incontinence could also be influenced by other factors, such as concurrent health conditions, surgical interventions related to cancer treatment, or changes in hormone levels due to therapy.

If someone undergoing chemotherapy experiences urinary symptoms or incontinence, it’s important to discuss these concerns with healthcare providers. They can assess the specific situation, identify any potential underlying causes, and provide guidance on managing or treating urinary issues, which may include pelvic floor exercises, medications, or other interventions based on the individual’s needs.