Some people will need to have a colostomy. This can be daunting at first. Learning to look after a stoma takes time and patience, and no one expects you to be able to cope straight away. Like anything new, it will get easier with time and practice.
In most hospitals, there are specially-trained nurses called stoma care nurses who you’ll usually meet before your operation. They will show you how to look after your stoma and help you cope with any problems.
You may also find it helpful to talk to someone who is used to living with a stoma. Your nurse or doctor can often arrange for a volunteer to visit you and talk to you about the more practical and personal aspects of living with a stoma. This advice can be invaluable, particularly in the first few months after your operation. You can contact the Colostomy Association or our cancer support specialists to talk about any concerns you have.
Before your operation, the nurse or doctor will carefully plan the position of your stoma so that your bag stays in place, whether you are sitting, standing or moving around.
For the first few days after your operation, your nurse will show you how to look after your colostomy and make sure that the bag is emptied and changed as often as necessary. At first, your stoma will be slightly swollen and it can take several weeks before it settles down to its normal size.
As soon as you’re feeling well enough, the nurse will show you how to clean your stoma and change the bags yourself. There are several different types of bag or appliance available, and the nurse will help you choose a suitable one.