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Prostate Cancer

Catheters

During surgery a small tube or catheter is put into the bladder through the penis so that urine can be drained into a collecting bag. This is usually done while the patient is anesthetised, so nothing is felt at that stage. To prevent blood clots blocking the catheter, bladder irrigation may also be used.

After a transurethral resection the catheter is usually removed before the patient goes home from hospital. After a radical prostatectomy the catheter is usually left in place for one to two weeks, to allow the bladder and urethra to heal. Men who have a radical prostatectomy usually manage their catheters at home for a while and then return to hospital to have them removed. 

 

Comments how the catheter was removed before leaving hospital.

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Did you come out of hospital with the catheter?

No, no, no that was all taken away, like all these things if you don't know you're pretty alarmed and when they said they were going to take it out I thought my God this is going to hurt [laughs] but it didn't because it's a deflatable thing and it goes in and comes out, no problem, but you know there's the apprehension of not knowing what's happening. But the operation was very simple I think.

 
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Describes how painful it was to pass water after the catheter was removed.

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Age at interview: 77
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 76
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So at midnight of course they were not, nobody was there so this sister came and what should I say, she took out the catheter, I don't know but some technique there must be, she pulled it out or something and I felt so painful I can't tell you, very, very painful and I had to pass water and that water was, you see like you have a wound and you put on it something burning, it was a burning sensation, I couldn't bear it.

 

Describes his difficulties with the catheter.

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Age at interview: 55
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 54
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The catheter was the most difficult thing to have because the tube - you had to strap to your leg with the bag and during the night you would connect your leg bag up to a reserve bag, which you put at the side of the bed so the fluid would run through your bag into the large bag, which you put on the floor which was twice the volume of your normal bag to take your through the night.

The main, the thing is when you went to the toilet for the very first time, the unpleasantness is that you've got a catheter fitted to you with your bag down your leg and you're sort of in the toilet and you are a bit concerned of straining, obviously you are concerned that the catheter might come out, which I did and as I, it may not sound very nice but out of my first time I went to the toilet I did, some of the urine did come out of the side of the catheter which made me very concerned, but I was told this was a normal thing to happen.

 

Comments on how he found the catheter most uncomfortable.

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Age at interview: 56
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 55
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The catheter I didn't find at all comfortable - I never really got used to it. It didn't get blocked but I did get a slight bladder infection which made it extremely tender, in fact all the way through there was cream that they would put on the tip of my penis but it didn't really have much effect. I did find the one irritant, the one so sore that I had to move terribly gingerly because it was extraordinary sore and when I was out of hospital and doing a bit more moving around it was uncomfortable. I think most people would probably find they've got through it alright, it was only because I developed a bladder infection that made it smart. 

 
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Describes what it was like to have the catheter in at home.

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Age at interview: 57
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 54
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I came home with the catheter that stayed in for - I'm not sure how many weeks it was - it was at least 6 weeks, it could've been 2 months. 

The catheter is like a balloon, they put that down the penis and they inflate it. The balloon is at the end and they inflate that and that stops the catheter coming out. To take it out they put a syringe down and burst the balloon and then just pull it out; and it's just an "Ow!" 

You have one of a night on a stand and you put the bag on the stand, which is nice when you're getting older, you don't have to get up in the night. And then of a daytime, you have one that you strap onto your leg and I used to wear that in the daytime no problems at all. The worst part I had was going to the toilet.

The pain doesn't come from round the penis but from the bowels. It's really difficult and I've got a very high barrier for pain. I came out and my wife was upset because of it. Gradually it got better and better and they gave me that Lactalose to help, which it did, and then I had the District Nurse coming in every day to change my dressings and she was very nice as well.

 
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Comments on how he found the catheter no problem at all.

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Age at interview: 63
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 62
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How did you find having a catheter in hospital?

No problem at all, absolutely no problem, it was a practical answer to a problem that they had to solve because of the operation and it just worked like a dream, I didn't find any problem at all. Mine had to stay in longer than other people because mine was a full operation

You had radical prostatectomy.

That's right.

Is that what they call it?

Yes, I could never remember that full name and I used to call it drastic instead of radical (laughs) but because the urethra had been cut and sewn together then obviously the catheter had to go in until that was all healed. So that stayed in a number of weeks and it just worked and was fine. Of course you have to drink during this time and a lot of people were loath to drink

And you describe what sort of, how having a catheter at home affected your lifestyle?

Not really very, very much because you can get up and about and it's, the bag is strapped to your shin, your lower leg and you just walk around as normal, it's hidden beneath the trousers and you just open the drain tube at the moment into the loo whenever it's nearly full

And what about at night, how did you manage it at night?

At night the bag goes into a frame standing on the floor just outside of the bed and you empty it obviously before you go to bed and next morning it will not be overflowing because it holds a tremendous amount.

That's good.

I can't remember how much it holds but it's a lot.

Did the hospital provide this frame for holding the catheter or did you have to buy that?

No, the hospital provided all the bags that you could want, but we bought the stand.

I had to go back to have the catheter out on 10th October because it was a radical prostatectomy. And that was no problem coming out, I was a bit wary about that, because I didn't really know much about them, I didn't want to know about what was inside but they just, it's a bulb as you obviously know that's inside the bladder and it's filled with water and they just release that water so the bulb collapses and then they draw it out it's no problem at all.

 

Explains his initial embarrassment at having a catheter and then soreness when removed.

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Age at interview: 63
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 56
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I found no initial serious discomfort with it [the catheter] but then a lot of concern about leakage and the fact of if it did leak within the bed it made me feel uncomfortable. It also made me feel embarrassed about it. I must admit that was put at ease and the method of the fixing of the catheter through the penis and the strap on the leg and the bag and the tackle that went with it. The bag was initially strapped onto the side of the bed when you were still in bed and then you had this little tripod type stand after that, you hooked your bag on and we went about our merry way. I had no problems with that, no discomfort with it. Some initial concern about embarrassment, but I must admit the staff certainly help you overcome those things and even then towards the latter part of the stay, before removal of the catheter, there was sort of some technique or instruction how to deal with a catheter in the event that you would have to go home with it. 

Thankfully that didn't happen, it was removed in hospital and from that point of view although I had a great deal of concern about removing this and the method of removing it at the time when it came to the removal it was absolutely painless. It was done really before, and carried out before I realised it had happened and there were no ill effects as far as I was concerned with the removal of the tube. It was very sore initially to pass water and tender. Control was limited, but there were 1 or 2 little easy pelvic exercise that you were given to strengthen your bladder muscles, and things like that, and within a short time of days really you were over the soreness and almost controlling your bladder as you would normally before the operation.


During brachytherapy men may have a catheter while the radioactive seeds are being implanted. The catheter is removed at the end of the procedure.
 

During brachytherapy Michael had a catheter. When he woke up he found that he could not pull the...

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Age at interview: 66
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 65
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Occasionally, men with prostate cancer find they have long term urinary incontinence, so they may have to live with a permanent catheter, which is usually changed every two to three months. For more experiences of living with catheter see our website on 'Living with a urinary catheter'.
 

Describes living with a permanent catheter.

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Age at interview: 69
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 63
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There was a time when I had to go through and do self catheterisation, this is not funny, actually it's very difficult and very hard.

It was given to me because it was very, very difficult to pass water even then and at that time you needed something to keep you going. And in the end, I had to have a catheter in with a bag on my leg and I've got this today and I shall have that basically for the rest of my life.

You have the bags which I keep on usually for 1 week, sometimes less. You have to be very careful that they don't burst. You must, or I wash mine every night completely through, cleanliness has got to be now, there isn't the time when you can come home tired and say 'I won't bother to wash,' you've just go to do it, it doesn't matter how tired you are, or that's the rules that I make for myself.

Can you explain how you wash it please?

Yes it's quite simple. Remove the bag which is easy to do and leave the catheter in of course. You empty the wee down the toilet, then I've got a funnel which I put on the end of the bag, making sure the bottom tap is turned off (laughs) because if you try and fill the bag up with water as I've done a couple of times then it all goes over the floor. And this is what I do, I wash the bag out, if I have any slightest doubt of the waterproof of the bag then I dump it and put a new one on. There is another thing which you're going to come across before long and that is when you forget to do up the tap after going out to the toilet at night or you knock it when you're in bed or it comes undone between the catheter and the bag. When this happens it goes over the mattress, and you wave bye-bye to the mattress because of course no way can you clean it, it just happens and it's one of those things. Another thing also that can happen is when you're out and again you forget to do up the tap and you're walking along and you think 'my foot's wet, why?'and again you haven't done up the bag so you get used to it. You just go to the nearest convenience, you take your shoe and sock off, wash your sock, ring it out and put it back on again.

So how often do you get a new bag?

I usually go 7 days for a bag but as I said if you've got any doubts of the bag then you dump it and put a new one on.

So you can do that yourself?

Oh yes it's a very simple connection. I find that I strap the bag just below the knee on a long lead or a long tube and this I've found is the best way of doing it, there's no way out as far I know.

And how often do you have to have a new catheter put in?

You should have a new catheter every 2 to 3 months. I try to get mine to go as long as possible because it's something that I do not like having done. You've got, when that catheter, new catheter is being put in you've got 5 minutes of pain but then it's only 5 minutes and you get used to it, you have to.

I don't sleep through the night. I usually get up about 3 or 4 times, a good night is getting up twice, that's a good night. But then again I would worry about going through the night because I think that I'm pretty certain the bag would burst again. You can get bigger bags and some people do this and have them outside the bed, I've tried it and I couldn't get on with it so I leave it strapped to the leg.

With the catheter you are more than likely to wet the bed so, because the bag has let you down. So therefore my advice is that you get a waterproof sheet to put on the bed, put a blanket on t

Also see 'Urinary incontinence'.

Last reviewed July 2017.

Last updated March 2015.

 
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