Having a stoma is a big change to your body, whether it is temporary or permanent. It can take time to adjust to. You may find it helpful to talk to someone who is used to living with a stoma. Your stoma nurse may be able to arrange this for you.
If you want to talk about any concerns you have, you can also contact our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00.
You will usually see a stoma care nurse on the first day after your operation. They will begin to teach you how to look after the stoma.
The stoma will be swollen at first, but will shrink to its final size within a few weeks. If you have a loop stoma there may be a rod underneath the loop to support it. A nurse will usually take the rod out after a few days.
Learning to look after a stoma takes time and patience, and no one expects you to be able to cope perfectly straight away. Like anything new, it will get easier with time and practice.
You will continue to have support from a stoma care nurse after you go home. They can help you cope with any problems. You may want to have a family member or friend with you while you are taught how to care for your stoma. This means they will know how to help you at home, if needed.
If you have an ileostomy, you will wear a stoma bag that opens at the bottom so you can empty it. An ileostomy produces semi-liquid waste continuously, so you will need to empty the bag several times a day.
A colostomy may be active two or three times a day, but this will vary from person to person. It will also be affected by what you eat. It will usually settle into a pattern after a few weeks, so you can predict when it is likely to be active. You will usually need to change your stoma bag about one to three times a day.
Some people with a colostomy are taught how to flush out (irrigate) their colostomy once a day. This helps them to control when it is active. If you want to try this, your stoma care nurse can discuss it with you in more detail.
Before you change or empty your bag, make sure that you have plenty of bags and cleaning materials with you. It is a good idea to keep everything you need in one place, so that you don’t have to search for things at the last minute. Give yourself plenty of time, so you can work at your own pace without any interruptions.
We have a video of a stoma nurse talking about looking after a stoma and showing the supplies you might use.