Men with mild incontinence as a result of prostate cancer treatment can benefit from collagen injections. Collagen is a natural protein derived from cattle that is routinely used in cosmetic procedures to expand facial skin and diminish fine lines and wrinkles. When used for incontinence, collagen acts in a similar fashion.
Under this procedure, collagen is injected into the tissues around the bladder neck to bulk up and prevent urine leakage out of the bladder. The injections must be repeated two or three times at the beginning and again if the leakage returns. Collagen injections are a simple outpatient procedure. Generally, they are effective for a few years, although the effectiveness can vary from a few months to many years. The injections may have to be repeated every four to 12 months if the collagen breaks down.
Patients may be tested to determine
if they will experience an allergic reaction to collagen
which could be life threatening. If patients are allergic,
they are not appropriate candidates for this treatment
and should seek other options. The injections do not
have the “bulking up” effect on the bladder
neck in patients who have had a radical
prostatectomy followed by radiation
therapy. Consequently, these patients will not be
administered collagen injections and should consult
their physician to determine the best possible alternative.
Recently, new materials have been developed to alleviate the collagen break down. One new substance is a water-based gel loaded with carbon-coated beads. Its effects have been shown to last longer because the material has a significantly slower rate of absorption than collagen. Patients should ask their doctor if this is the right treatment for them and what current research is being done to increase successful outcomes.