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Having a colostomy

Read about having a colostomy and find out what support is available to help you look after your stoma.

What is a colostomy

The large bowel is called the colon. An opening onto the skin from inside the body is called a stoma. Your surgeon stitches the end of the large bowel (colon) to a hole cut in your skin of your tummy (abdomen). This is called a colostomy. Your poo passes out through the stoma. You wear a bag stuck onto the skin over the stoma to collect your poo. It will be a mixture of bowel liquid, semi solid poo, and wind. 

What a colostomy looks like

The opening on your abdominal wall (stoma) will be round or oval. It looks red and moist like the inside of your mouth. It doesn't hurt because it has no nerve supply. You must be careful not to injure your stoma because you won't be able to feel if you have done any damage. 

The stoma will be swollen just after your operation but it will get smaller and flatter.

Diagram showing a colostomy with a bag

These photographs show one type of colostomy bag from the front and back.


Photo showing one type of colostomy bag
Photo showing one type of colostomy bag
Photo showing the back of a colostomy bag
Photo showing the back of a colostomy bag

Temporary colostomy

Some people with bowel cancer have a temporary colostomy. The colostomy allows the bowel to heal after the cancer has been removed. A few months later, you have another operation to rejoin the bowel and close the stoma. This is called a stoma reversal. 

The stoma nurse

Stoma nurses are experienced in looking after stomas (ileostomies and colostomies) and teaching you how to look after them. A nurse will visit you on the ward to show you what to do. For the first few days after your operation the stoma nurse will help you look after and clean the stoma, and change the bags. They will also help you to find which type of stoma bag is the best for you.

Your stoma nurse will give you stoma bags to take home. You get more from the chemist or a local stockist. Supplies are free, but you need a prescription from your GP. 

Information and help

Dangoor sponsorship

About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.