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Living with a stoma (urostomy)

Get tips on how to cope practically and emotionally after a urostomy, bladder reconstruction or surgery to remove early bladder cancer.

What is it

After surgery to remove your bladder, you might have a small, spout like hole called a stoma on your tummy (abdomen).

Your urine now comes out through the stoma. So it might take some time to get used to this.

Your stoma nurse can help you to look after the urostomy. They can also help with other practicalities, such as how to put a bag over the stoma to catch the urine. 

Getting used to the changes in your body

It can take some time for you to come to terms with the changes in your body. But it helps to have supportive family and friends. If you find this difficult, you might need some help from other people.

You might worry about how your stoma will affect: 

  • your job
  • your relationships
  • your sex life
  • sports and hobbies

With time you will probably find that there is very little that you can't do, that you could do before your surgery. You will become more confident about living with a stoma.

Your job

Having a urostomy should not affect your working life, unless your job involves heavy types of manual work such as digging.

Ask your stoma nurse for advice if you are unsure about this.

Your relationships

You will probably worry about how the stoma will affect your relationships, whether with a partner or with friends. You might have practical worries about the bag leaking or being noticeable. Or you may have emotional worries about how your friends or partner may react.

Stoma appliances are very well designed. They are not easily seen through your clothes and they shouldn't leak. Talk to your stoma nurse if you have problems with your bag. A different type of bag may suit you better.

You will probably find that your fears will disappear if you can talk openly to friends and family about your surgery and urostomy. Most people understand and are very willing to help if they can.

Your sex life

After bladder surgery you might have some physical changes that can affect your sex life.

Sports and social life

Your stoma shouldn't stop you enjoying your favourite pastimes.

You can exercise and swim. You can wear a smaller urostomy bag while you swim if you prefer. Or you can wear a waterproof dressing. Your stoma nurse can advise you about this. 

There is no reason why you shouldn't drink alcohol with a urostomy. But bear in mind that the more liquid you drink, the more urine you will pass. So you might have to get up in the night to empty your bag.

To get a good night's sleep it can help to avoid drinking large amounts of any liquid later on in the evening. You can also attach a night drainage bag to your day bag so that it holds more urine.

Cancer Research UK nurses

For information, you can call the Cancer Research UK nurses free on 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They are happy to help. They can give advice about who can help you and what kind of support is available.
Last reviewed: 
21 May 2015
  • Cancer Principles and Practice of Oncology (10th edition) 

    V. DeVita and others. Wolters Kluwer, 2015

  • Improving supportive and palliative care for adults with cancer

    The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), March 2004

  • The Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures (9th edition)

    L. Dougherty and S. Lister. Wiley Blackwell, 2015

Information and help

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