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Having a colostomy or ileostomy

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This page tells you about having a colostomy or ileostomy. These are both types of stoma – an opening onto the body surface.

A colostomy is an opening of the large bowel onto the surface of the tummy (abdomen). An ileostomy is an opening of the small bowel onto the surface of the abdomen. You wear a bag over the opening, to collect the waste matter from digestion that would normally be passed from the body as a bowel motion (stool).

Some people with bowel cancer need to have a colostomy. Most of these will be temporary. They will be closed a few months later, when the bowel has fully healed.

Women with vaginal cancer, or cervical cancer that has spread outside the womb, may need to have a big operation called a pelvic exenteration. This operation involves having a permanent colostomy. There may be other situations with other types of cancers where you need to have a colostomy. But it is not common.

These pages of the bowel cancer section may be helpful

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Updated: 21 May 2014