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Coping with a colostomy after anal cancer

Find out about coping with a colostomy after anal cancer.

Coming to terms with a colostomy

If the lower part of your bowel is removed, the surgeon brings the end of the bowel out onto the surface of your tummy (abdomen). You wear a bag over the hole to catch your poo. This can take some time to adjust to. 

After a colostomy, you will need to think about and adjust to practical issues and feelings around having a colostomy. It can take time to get used to all these changes. But most people learn to do so. Your stoma nurse can give advice and support at all stages.

Your body image and mood

If you need a colostomy it is normal to feel worried about how you will look and how other people might react. Once you get home, you may feel isolated and frustrated with the colostomy. You may also find it difficult to do the things you used to enjoy. All these changes can make you feel sad or depressed. Remember that your stoma nurse is there to support you during this time.

If you feel very sad, reach out for support. You can contact your GP or stoma nurse.

You can call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

The bowel cancer or colostomy organisations can also give support.

As you learn to cope with your colostomy, it will have less of an effect on your daily life. You may also find that you feel more positive and less sad once you get back to the things you enjoy in life.

Your job

Having a colostomy usually doesn't interfere with most jobs. It might affect your work if it involves heavy digging or other kinds of manual work. Ask your stoma nurse for advice.

Sports and hobbies

A colostomy doesn't have to stop you from doing sports or hobbies. All sorts of physical activities are possible. Even strenuous exercise and swimming. Your stoma nurse can advise you on how to protect your stoma. Waterproof bags and seals are available for swimming and other water activities.

Last reviewed: 
13 Jun 2016
  • Anal cancer: ESMO-ESSO-ESTRO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up
    R. Glynne-Jones and others.
    Annals of Oncology 2014. 25 (Supplement 3)


  • Living with a colostomy
    Colostomy Association - Accessed June 2016

Information and help

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