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Understanding Prostate Cancer

What You Should Know About Prostate Cancer Treatment: Urinary Dysfunction

(Read time: 5 minutes)
This article is not intended to replace professional medical care or advice. If you have any questions or need additional information, please talk with your doctor.

Prostate cancer treatments each come with their own benefits and risks. Urinary dysfunction — along with bowel dysfunction and erectile dysfunction — is one of the more common side effects of prostate cancer treatment.1

It’s important to understand what treatments may lead to urinary dysfunction and how the prostate and bladder are anatomically connected2 in order to help make informed treatment decisions.

How are the prostate and bladder connected?

The prostate is a gland of the male reproductive and urinary systems located between the bladder and the penis and just in front of the rectum.2 The urethra — the tube that drains pee from the bladder — runs through the prostate.2

Male anatomy showing the bladder, urethra, and prostate.

Urinary function is normally controlled by several sets of muscles: the muscles in the urethra, the internal sphincter (located where the bladder and urethra join), and the external sphincter (located below the prostate).3 These muscles act together with pelvic floor muscles to control the flow of urine in the bladder.3

How can prostate cancer treatment lead to urinary dysfunction?

Prostate cancer treatments may damage the nerves and muscles used in urinary control.1 Urinary dysfunction resulting from prostate cancer treatment can mean difficulty holding urine, feeling urgency, passing urine too frequently, or difficulty emptying the bladder fully.1,4

These symptoms are categorized into a few main types of incontinence:5–7

  • Stress urinary incontinence
  • Urge incontinence
  • Overflow incontinence
  • Mixed incontinence

When choosing between prostate cancer treatment options, it’s important to be aware of how each therapy could affect your bladder. Different prostate cancer treatments may cause different urinary side effects:

  • Surgery can physically change your urinary system, which presents the possibility of damaging the nerves that help control bladder function.8
  • Radiation therapy can irritate the bladder, which can make you feel you need to pee more often or creates a burning feeling when you pee. Radiation can also inflame the urethra, which affects urine flow.9

While symptoms like urinary incontinence may improve over the weeks or months following treatment, in some men they can be long-term problems.8,9

It’s important to weigh treatment option benefits and risks with your doctor.

SpaceOAR™ Hydrogel is designed to help reduce prostate cancer radiation therapy side effects.10 Learn more.

Recent advances in prostate cancer treatment and rectal spacers, such as SpaceOAR™ Hydrogel, may help reduce potential side effects of prostate cancer radiation therapy.11,12 SpaceOAR Hydrogel is an absorbable polyethylene glycol (PEG) based hydrogel that works by creating a temporary space between the rectum and prostate. In a clinical study, men with SpaceOAR Hydrogel had less decline in urinary quality of life than men who didn’t receive SpaceOAR Hydrogel.12

Learn more about the side effects of prostate cancer treatment and how SpaceOAR Hydrogel could help reduce side effects from radiation and help maintain your quality of life.11

Learn more about options for urinary incontinence at

This material is for informational purposes only and not meant for medical diagnosis. This information does not constitute medical or legal advice, and Boston Scientific makes no representation regarding the medical benefits included in this information. Boston Scientific strongly recommends that you consult with your physician on all matters pertaining to your health.

  1. Urinary Dysfunction after Prostate Cancer Treatment. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Accessed January 6, 2023.
  2. What Is the Prostate Gland? Medical News Today. Accessed October 14, 2022.
  3. The Urinary Tract & How It Works. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Accessed August 20, 2022.
  4. Bladder Problems after Treatment for Prostate Cancer. Cancer Research UK. Accessed October 20, 2022.
  5. Prostate Cancer: Urinary Incontinence. Accessed October 20, 2022.
  6. Overflow Incontinence. Accessed October 20, 2022.
  7. Mixed Incontinence. Accessed October 20, 2022.
  8. Surgery for Prostate Cancer. American Cancer Society. Accessed October 20, 2022.
  9. Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer. American Cancer Society. Accessed March 4, 2022.
  10. Data on file with Boston Scientific.
  11. Mariados N, Sylvester J, Shah D, et al. Hydrogel spacer prospective multicenter randomized controlled pivotal trial: Dosimetric and clinical effects of perirectal spacer application in men undergoing prostate image guided intensity modulated radiation therapy. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2015 Aug 1;92(5):971–7.
  12. Hamstra DA, Mariados N, Sylvester J, et al. Continued benefit to rectal separation for prostate radiation therapy: Final results of a phase III trial. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2017 Apr 1;97(5):976–85.

Caution: U.S. Federal law restricts this device to sale by or on the order of a physician.

SpaceOAR Hydrogel is intended to temporarily move the rectal wall away from the prostate during the course of radiotherapy treatment for prostate cancer, and in creating this space it is the intent of SpaceOAR Hydrogel to reduce the radiation dose affecting the rectum.

SpaceOAR Hydrogel contains polyethylene glycol (PEG). As with any medical treatment, there are some risks involved with the use of SpaceOAR Hydrogel. Potential complications associated with SpaceOAR Hydrogel include, but are not limited to: pain associated with injection, pain or discomfort from the hydrogel, site inflammation, infection (including abscess), inability to urinate, urgent need to urinate, constipation, rectal muscle spasm, damage to lining of rectum, ulcers, fistula (a hole between rectum and bladder, urethra, or skin below the scrotum), perforation (hole in prostate, bladder, urethra, rectum), necrosis (dead tissue), allergic reaction (local reaction or more severe reaction, such as anaphylaxis), embolism (blood vessel blockage is possible and may happen outside of the pelvis, potentially impacting vital organs or legs), fainting, and bleeding. Please talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits related to using SpaceOAR Hydrogel. If one or more of these complications occur, you may need medical treatment or surgery. URO-1288805-AA

All images are the property of Boston Scientific. URO-687105-AB JAN 2023