If you have a stoma

Having a stoma can be difficult at first. Learning to look after a stoma takes time and patience. 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 stoma care nurses who you’ll meet before your operation. They show you how to look after the stoma and help you cope with any problems.

You may find it helpful to talk to someone who is living with a stoma. Your nurse or doctor can often arrange for a volunteer to visit you. This can be very helpful, especially in the first few months after your operation.

Before surgery, your stoma nurse or doctor carefully plans the position of the stoma. This means the colostomy bag will stay in place, whatever you are doing.

At first, the stoma will be slightly swollen. It can take several weeks before it settles down. For the first few days, your nurse will show you how to look after it. They will also empty and change the bag.

Getting ready to go home

As soon as you’re feeling well enough, your nurse will show you how to clean the stoma and change the bags. It may help for a partner or close relative to be there too. It means they can help if you have any difficulties when you go home. There are different types of colostomy bags and supplies. The nurse will help you choose what’s suitable for you.  

They will give you stoma supplies to go home with. After this, you will need to order them from your chemist or a specialist supply company. The supplies are free, but you need a prescription from your GP. If you’re aged 16 to 60, make sure your doctor signs the form saying you’re entitled to free prescriptions.

Once you’re at home, you can phone the stoma nurse if you have any problems. Or a district nurse can visit to make sure you’re coping with your stoma.

Having a stoma is a big change in your life. It can also affect relationships, as some people are uncomfortable about their bodies or about a partner seeing their stoma. These feelings are a natural part of coming to terms with having a stoma, and usually slowly get better over time.

There are different organisations that can support you:

Yes, there is this big thing of, “Oh no, not a stoma” but the darn things can help. And with the aid of good stoma nurses, they are manageable.


Back to Surgery explained

Who might I meet?

A team of specialists will plan your surgery. This will include a surgeon who specialises in your type of cancer.