Stoma information & support

What is a Stoma?

Treatment for bowel cancer sometimes involves a stoma. This involves a surgical procedure that will divert your bowel through an opening created in your tummy. The stoma has a changeable bag that attaches to it to collect your stools (poo). The stoma may be permanent or temporary, in which case the procedure will usually be reversed once your treatment is finished.

Being told you need need a colostomy or ileostomy can be upsetting. There may be all kinds of questions you want answers to and we hope this page provides some of the information you might need.

Once the decision for a potential stoma has been made a team of clinical nurse specialists  (called stoma nurses) will be in touch to talk to you about what it will mean for you personally.


What does the stoma look like?

It’s a pinky-red, soft, moist tissue, similar to the inside of your mouth. It’s part of your bowel that has been brought through the surface of your abdomen.

Once the stoma has been created, you will need to wear a stoma bag to collect the contents of your bowel.

Does the stoma hurt?

No –  there are no nerve endings or muscle so you can’t feel it.

Do I need to change my diet?

Prior to surgery there is no need  to change your diet unless you have been advised by your doctor to do so. How much you need to change your diet (if at all) once the stoma is formed will be dependent on what type of surgery you have and where the stoma is in your bowel. You stoma nurse will discuss this with you in detail prior to your surgery.

What does the bag look like?

It’s a plastic pouch about the size of your hand with a material backing that adheres to the skin around the stoma. There are variations in shape and size so your nurse will assess you for the most appropriate.

Does it smell?

While the pouch is sealed there shouldn’t be any odour but when you empty or remove the pouch there will be an odour much the same as if you were going to the toilet normally. There are deoderisers available from your stoma nurse.

Where do I get supplies?

Your stoma nurse will supply you with everything you need whilst you are an in-patient. After that your nurse will correspond with your GP and can arrange for an external supplier to provide your bags and accessories.

Will I get any help and support managing it once I leave hospital?

You’ll be seen as an in-patient until you are able to manage on your own or with the help of family members. If you’re a patient at the Royal Surrey, you may be able to receive a home visit initially and then you can come to the clinic. There is also a telephone advice service available – call 01483 571122, ext 2558 or bleep 0911.

For those in other areas, you should be referred to a stoma nurse when you leave hospital – check before with your care team.

Stoma Support Group

Next meetings: TBC

Contact us if you are interested in attending a Stoma Support Group meeting. Please mention your preference for either in-person or online via Zoom.

Bowel Cancer Treatments

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