Living with a stoma

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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 stoma?

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:

Most people who have a stoma can:

It may give people a new lease on life!

Medical conditions that may require a stoma include:

A stoma may be temporary or permanent, depending on the medical condition.


There are 3 types of operations to create an abdominal stoma:

1. Colostomy - A surgical opening is made from the large intestine (bowel or colon). There are 6 main     types of colostomies.

Management methods

2.  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:

Management methods

 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:

Management methods

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 can’t 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:

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. They’ll help free you from worries about spills, leaks or odour.

Your SCN will help you choose a pouch that is:

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:

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.


Skin-care tips

Note: Your stoma probably won’t need to be cleaned because it’s made of body tissue that is normally in contact with waste products.

Check for skin problems

Whenever you remove your pouch. Look for:

Take care of minor skin irritations

Follow these tips:


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:

Live the way you want

Start by overcoming these two common worries:

How do I eliminate odour?

A stoma and odour don’t have to go together.

What can I eat?

Usually, whatever you want. Here are some tips:

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.

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.

Can I travel?

Yes – you can travel wherever you like!

What about my career?

People with a stoma can have successful careers – just like anyone else.

 How can I look my best?

That’s up to you, because you can wear almost anything you like!

More questions and answers

What should I tell others?

That’s 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 isn’t affected by having a stoma. However, consult your doctor to discuss your concerns.

Where can I get help?


Further information can be obtained from  your Stoma Care Nurse or Dietitian or : -

Healthy eating with a stoma

The Ileostomy Association  
Amblehurst House, Black Scotch Lane, Mansfield
Notts NG18 4PF, Tel: 0800 0184724  


The British Colostomy Association (BCA)  
15 Station Road,  Reading, Berkshire,  
RG1 1LG, Tel: 0118 9391537  

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. 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 journey.

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