Urinary retention

Urinary Retention

Sometimes the prostate cancer can press on the urethra or grow in such a way that it prevents urine from emptying from the bladder. This is termed urinary retention.A build-up of urine in the bladder may not only be uncomfortable but may also cause a backflow of the urine into the kidney tubes (ureters) which may then stop the kidneys draining properly leading to them becoming swollen ( this is called hydronephrosis). If a man is in urinary retention a urinary catheter or drainage tube will be inserted into the bladder via the penis to drain the urine off. This can also sometimes be inserted through the area over the bladder on the abdomen (supra-pubic catheter). For more information on how to care for a catheter please see below.

An operation called a Trans Urethral Resection of the Prostate (TURP) can sometimes be performed to remove some of the prostate growth. This is performed by inserting a special surgical instrument via the urethra and removing prostate tissue which may then allow men to pass urine more easily. For more information on a TURP please see the following information from NHS Choices


Catheters and Catheter care


A catheter is a plastic tube that drains urine from the bladder. It will be connected to a drainage bag. The catheter is held inside the bladder by a balloon that is inflated with sterile water following insertion. It will therefore not usually come out unless properly removed by deflating the balloon. The balloon of the catheter tends to rest over a sensitive area of nerves in the bladder which may become irritated by its presence. This irritation may make a man feel as if he is bursting to pass urine and sometimes the nerves in the bladder will react to this irritation and force a small amount of urine to be expelled from around the catheter.


  • Unless instructed otherwise men can have a shower or bath with the catheter in place.
  • Do not use powders or lotions around the catheter or penis entry site.
  • If men find the catheter is leaking they should not put non sterile materials around the penis.
  • It is very important to drink 2 – 3 litres of fluid daily to flush the urine through and water based drinks tend to prevent bacteria forming in the urine which can lead to infection.
  • When emptying or connecting catheter bags men should always wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after the procedure.
  • Do not pull or tug at the catheter.


Last reviewed April 2021. Next review 2022.


References available on request.

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