What is a stoma?
Stoma is an opening on the body created by a surgical procedure
(operation). With an abdominal stoma, body waste from the intestinal or urinary tract is
passed through an opening on the abdomen. This opening allows waste to pass
safely and painlessly from the body.
Why should I learn about living with a
The main reason for learning
how to use stoma and live it is simply because most people are unaware of its many benefits.
Having a stoma can help:
- Relieve pain and suffering
- Prevent disease, infection or an obstruction from becoming more
- Improve general health
- Save lives
Most people who have a stoma can:
- have rewarding careers
- have children
- be physically active
- eat what they want (with few exceptions)
- travel anywhere
- lead active social lives.
It may give people a new lease on life!
Medical conditions that may require a stoma include:
- ulcerative colitis
- Crohns disease
- birth defects
- injury or trauma
- familial polyposis (abnormal growths in the colon)
- chronic inflammation of the bladder or kidneys
- other conditions
A stoma may be temporary or permanent, depending on the medical
There are 3 types of operations to create an abdominal
- A surgical opening is made from the large intestine (bowel or
colon). There are 6 main types of colostomies.
- In most cases, a pouch (also called an appliance) is worn to
collect waste. Or, a plug and discharge bag may be used.
- An enema (self-washout/irrigation) or natural elimination may be
used, depending on the type of colostomy and your medical condition.
Ileostomy - A surgical opening is made
from the small intestine (ileum). The colon and the rectum may be removed.
There are 3 main types of ileostomy:
- Continent (Kock Pouch)
- Ileoanal Reservoir
- For standard ileostolmies, an external pouch is used.
- For continent ileostomies, waste is stored in a surgically created
pouch inside the body. A small tube (catheter) is used to empty the pouch.
- For ileoanal reservoirs, waste is passed by natural elimination.
3. Urostomy - A surgical opening diverts urine
away from its normal path, usually to avoid a diseased or infected bladder. There are 6
main types of urostomies:
- Single ureterostomy
- Ileal Conduit
- Bilateral Transuretero
- For continent urostomies, urine is stored in a surgically created
pouch inside the body. The pouch is emptied with a catheter.
- An external pouch with an outlet tap is used for other types.
The stoma (surgical opening)
has a deep red or pink colour and will usually shrink for 4 to 8 weeks after the
operation. The stoma cant feel pain or the passage of waste.
Will I be able to adjust to living with a stoma ?
YES ! It may be difficult at first but you can do it.
The adjustment will be easier if you:
- Learn all you can about stoma
If you have any questions, ask your consultant, doctor or stoma care
nurse (SCN). Ask your SCN to arrange for a visit from a local support group.
- Express your feelings
At first, you may feel angry or insecure. Talk over these feelings
with someone you trust, or, if possible, another person whos had a similar
Now that youre on the road to good health, plan how
youre going to enjoy what life has to offer!
Remember, a stoma isnt a disability unless you let it
become one. You can live the life you want!
How can I manage my stoma ?
By learning about self-care and by
keeping a positive attitude
Learn about your pouch
Pouches come in many styles and are designed to fit individual
needs. Theyll help free you from worries about spills, leaks or odour.
Your SCN will help you choose a pouch that is:
- non-irritating to the skin.
You will be given information on how and where to obtain pouches
and other equipment before leaving the hospital.
Use a pouch that you have confidence in.
Learn how to use your pouch
While in the hospital, your SCN will show you the proper way to
use your pouch.
Some self-care tips:
- Read all instructions.
- Use equipment designed for your pouch (belt, closure, tape, skin
barrier, deodorant, etc.)
- Have all necessary equipment within reach.
- Wash hand before and after you remove or change the pouch.
- Centre the pouch over your stoma carefully when you put it on.
(Stand and use a mirror or paper quide strip for help.)
- Empty the pouch when 1/3 full, and before you go to bed.
- Sit on the toilet seat or a chair and empty your pouch into the
- Prevent leakage from your stoma when you remove the pouch by
holding a piece of toilet paper or tissues over it.
- Dispose of the empty pouch by sealing it in a plastic bag or
wrapping it in newspaper. Put it in the dustbin. Do not flush it down the toilet.
If you have any questions or concerns, ask your doctor or SCN.
Take good care of your skin
Waste products can irritate the skin surrounding your stoma, so
special care is required.
- Make sure your pouch fits properly, sticks well and doesnt
- Change your pouch as recommended.
- Measure your stoma frequently to be sure the pouch you use is the
- Gently clean the skin surrounding the stoma each time you remove
- Use lots of warm water and, if necessary, only mild soap to clean
- Dont use creams, powders, etc., unless recommended by your
doctor or SCN.
- Pat your skin dry, then air dry dont rub.
Note: Your stoma probably wont need to be cleaned
because its made of body tissue that is normally in contact with waste products.
Check for skin problems
Whenever you remove your pouch. Look for:
- a rash
- weeping (oozing)
Take care of minor skin irritations
Follow these tips:
- Wash affected area with mild soap and warm water only.
- Use a hair dryer on a cool setting to dry skin, if necessary.
- Dont dry a rash with a heat lamp.
- Make sure the pouch is secure and doesnt leak.
- Dont use ointments or creams unless recommended by your
doctor or SCN.
- Change your pouch as recommended.
Check your stoma
At times, your stoma may bleed slightly when you change the pouch
or clean the surrounding skin. It is not a cause for concern.
Contact your doctor or SCN immediately if:
- your stoma bleeds excessively, has a black colour, is swollen or
sunken, or has a strong, lasting odour
- you have any unusual changes in body waste
- minor skin irritations last more than a few days
- any problem becomes severe or causes pain
- you have any questions or concerns.
Live the way you want
Start by overcoming these two common worries:
How do I eliminate odour?
- Use an odourproof and/or a flatus filter (to let the wind escape).
- Make sure the pouch is well sealed around the stoma.
- Use a pouch deodorant (drops or powder).
- Avoid foods that cause odour or wind, such as beans or asparagus.
- Eat foods that are natural deodorants, such as applesauce,
cranberry juice and yoghurt.
A stoma and odour dont have to go together.
What can I eat?
Usually, whatever you want. Here are some tips:
- Ask your doctor or SCN when you can resume a normal diet
- Try only one food that you havent eaten since surgery, each
- Avoid foods that cause diarrhoea.
- Take small bites and chew well.
- Drink plenty of water about 8 glasses per day.
- Never take any medicine unless you have your doctors
Experiment and enjoy!
Some questions and answers about
living with a stoma:
What about love and friendship?
The only thing that can hold you back is your attitude.
- Have a positive attitude.
- Communicate honestly with others.
- Keep your sense of humour.
- Always practice good hygiene so youll feel clean and
Note: Note: Most people with a stoma can enjoy a healthy sex life.
If you have questions, ask your doctor or SCN. Most people with a stoma can enjoy a healthy sex life.
If you have questions, ask your doctor or SCN.
What about exercise?
You should be able to do just about anything. Consult your doctor
before you begin.
- Choose an activity you enjoy.
- Start slowly and build up gradually.
- Use the proper equipment.
- Use caution when lifting heavy objects, especially during the
first year after surgery.
- Contact your doctor if you feel pain, or have any problems.
Can I travel?
Yes you can travel wherever you like!
- Always take plenty of supplies (pouches, skin barrier, etc.)
- Keep your supplies with you on the plane, train, car or coach.
- Obtain a list of doctors and/or SCN in the area youll be
- Take steps to prevent diarrhoea. (If necessary, use bottled water
for drinking and irrigation.)
What about my career?
People with a stoma can have successful careers just like
- Talk to a health-care professional about the type of work
youll be doing.
- Keep enough supplies at work for your needs.
How can I look my best?
Thats up to you, because you can wear almost anything you
- Choose clothes to fit your lifestyle.
- Be sure they fit comfortably.
- Avoid wearing firm belts and tight waistbands directly over your
More questions and answers
What should I tell others?
Thats up to you tell them whatever you feel
comfortable with. But, remember, when you answer questions honestly, you help teach others
the facts about a stoma.
What about pregnancy?
Having a family usually isnt affected by having a stoma.
However, consult your doctor to discuss your concerns.
Where can I get help?
- Your doctor
- Your stoma care nurse
- Other people with a stoma
- Local stoma support groups
- Suppliers of stoma equipment
- Local pharmacists.
information can be obtained from your Stoma Care Nurse or Dietitian
eating with a stoma
NG18 4PF, Tel: 0800
Colostomy Association (BCA)
RG1 1LG, Tel: 0118
All over the world, people with a stoma are leading rewarding lives. YOU CAN, TOO!
Further general information Your doctors
and specialist nurses are in an ideal position to give you relevant information
on your disease and treatment as they know your individual circumstances. Cancerbackup
has a help line (0808 800 1234) and a prize
winning video available in English, Italian,
Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati & Hindi explaining Radiotherapy &
Chemotherapy. Cancernet.co.uk has over
500 pages describing cancer, its management, practical tips and tool which
patients, their carers and their doctors have found helpful during the cancer
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