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After Prostate Surgery, Incontinence is Worse if You're Fat

Posted Apr 05 2010 12:00am
After prostate cancer surgery, the vast majority of men suffer from incontinence for at least a week or two. Still it’s a minority (5% to 16%) that becomes permanently incontinent.  One exception is men who are fat.  About one in four become incontinent, especially if they fail to exercise.
This new finding about prostate cancer’s impact was confirmed in the February 2010 issue of the Journal of Urology. In reading about this, I was reminded of a conversation I had with my surgeon before I opted for a prostatectomy three years ago.  At that time I asked the doc if I’d become incontinent if I went for surgery. He assured me that was not likely, at least for the long term.

Then he smiled and nonchalantly opined that I was hardly as fat as many of the patients he had seated on the chair where I sat during our discussion.  Reassuring me he added, “Now THEY were at far greater risk than you, as a large proportion will require adult diapers for life.”

I took this as a compliment, since at 6’2” I weighed only 185 pounds. I was also a tad intimidated as I was then about 30 pounds less than I had weighed two years earlier due to a diabetes scare.  For all that, even though I had become fairly sedentary in my ways, I was encouraged by my physician’s optimism in my behalf,

Researchers from Washington University, cited in February’s Journal of Urology (pp. 629-633), demonstrated a correlation between post-surgical incontinence and weightiness similar to my urologist’s clinical insights. They came to some remarkable conclusions in even greater detail, that proved my doctor’s point and then some!

For instance six weeks after prostate surgery 59% of all patients were incontinent, defined as needing a pad due to leaking urine, no matter how little. A year later though, only 22% of all men remained incontinent. But 24% to 25% of physically inactive men, whether obese or not, remained incontinent. Even more significantly, fewer active, slim men (16%) still experienced incontinence.

What better proof is there that if you want to avoid urological dysfunction after prostate cancer surgery you first have to do what you can to lose weight and exercise.  If you don’t, you’re more likely to lose your quality of life.

To site the ancient biblical aphorism, “As you sow, so shall you reap”!

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