Living with a urinary diversion or neobladder

urinary diversionA patient with bladder cancer called and told me that she was scheduled to have her bladder removed (cystectomy). Her daughter was getting married in another state and she wanted to know about traveling after the surgery. I was happy to tell her that people with a urinary diversion are usually able to return to the life, work, and hobbies they previously enjoyed, including travel.

When the bladder is removed, it is necessary to create a new method for the patient’s body to handle urine. Urinary reconstruction and diversion is a surgical method to create a new way for you to pass urine. There are three ways to do this, called urinary diversions:

  • Ileal conduit, the most common type of urinary diversion
  • Neobladder
  • Indiana Pouch, also called a Colon Pouch or Continent Cutaneous Pouch

After surgery, it takes time to regain your strength. It takes one to two months on average to feel well again. The goal of the surgery is not only to cure or eliminate the disease or defect, but to help patients go back to their work, hobbies and activities of everyday life. Adjustments to a urinary diversion take time and patience and a positive attitude.

Are there restrictions regarding work, activities, diet, or travel?

Work – Most people can return to their jobs. Some jobs require heavy lifting which can cause a stoma to herniate or protrude. A sudden blow near the stoma could also cause damage. Patients should check with their doctors about their type of work and any type of job hazards they should be aware of or try to avoid.

Physical activity – After the post-operative period, exercising and participation in sports and other activities is encouraged. Patients with urinary diversions can continue to participate in sports, though you should consult your doctor regarding sporting hazards and protective equipment that may be needed.

Diet – There are no eating restrictions, but if you have special dietary concerns, check with your doctor or health care team member. The colon pouch produces mucous and this can build up. If you drink lots of water, it dilutes the mucous.

Lifestyle – Smoking is an important lifestyle factor: if you smoke, we strongly encourage you to quit. Not only does smoking cause cancer – there is a high correlation between smoking and bladder cancer – but smoking can slow down your recovery.

Travel – There are no travel restrictions. It is important to be prepared; make sure you have enough supplies (there may not be a place to buy more supplies, depending on your travel destination). If you’re traveling for long periods, it’s always good to get up and stretch every two hours.

Medical alert bracelet – Always wear your medical alert bracelet. You’ve had a significant change to your internal anatomy. In the event of an emergency, medical personnel need to know about your condition.

If you have any concerns about returning to work, activities, diet or travel, be sure to ask your doctor.

There are times when you may feel discouraged or depressed after surgery, these are normal feelings. Discussing with family and friends may be helpful or seeking support from another patient who has had a similar surgery. The Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network and the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Bladder Cancer Support Group are other options for you to find support.

Take the next step:

  • Bookmark these resources for patients with bladder cancer, compiled by the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.
  • Read more about living with urinary diversions from the Bladder Cancer Advocacy network:
  • Still have questions? Call the nurses at the University of Michigan Cancer AnswerLine™. They can help patients or their loved ones find a clinical trial or provide insights into the newest and latest cancer treatments. Feel free to call at 1-800-865-1125 or send an e-mail.

2013 annette 1The Cancer AnswerLine™ nurses are experienced in oncology care, including helping patients and their families who have questions about cancer. These registered oncology nurses are available by calling 800-865-1125 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Your call is always free and confidential.



Cancer-center-informal-vertical-sig-150x150The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan according to U.S. News & World Report. Our multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.