Skip to content

Colorectal Cancer Health Center

Select An Article

Living With a Colostomy

Font Size

What Is a Colostomy?

The colon, which is the first 4 feet or 5 feet of the large intestine, is part of the body's digestive system. It has the job of absorbing water from waste material (feces) and returning it to the body. It also absorbs any remaining nutrients. The solid waste material is then passed through the colon to the rectum. From there, it is eliminated from the body through the anus.

When the colon, rectum, or anus is unable to function normally because of disease or injury, or needs to rest from normal function, the body must have another way to eliminate the waste. A colostomy is an opening -- called a stoma -- that connects the colon to the surface of the abdomen. This provides a new path for waste material and gas to leave the body. A colostomy can be permanent or temporary.

Recommended Related to Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal Cancer Clinical Trials

Before doctors can prescribe new medications and treatments, they must be shown to be safe and effective. Colorectal cancerclinical trials allow test the effects of new medications on volunteers with colorectal cancer. The researchers follow a strict protocol and use carefully controlled conditions to evaluate the drugs being developed. The evaluation focuses on how well the drug treats colorectal cancer. Researchers also determine its safety and any possible side effects. Some patients with colorectal...

Read the Colorectal Cancer Clinical Trials article > >

How Will a Colostomy Change My Life?

While still in the hospital after your surgery, you will be educated about the care of your colostomy and given some tips for making the necessary adjustments. Living with a colostomy will require a modification of your lifestyle. But with proper education and guidance, it can be manageable. Hopefully the following tips will help you adjust. And, keep in mind there are colostomy societies and support groups available to offer assistance.

  • Monitor your medications. Some medicines can cause constipation or diarrhea.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet. Avoid foods that cause excessive gas, such as cabbage, beans, and some nuts. A dietitian can help you choose a balanced diet that will help you avoid constipation and diarrhea and not interfere with your colostomy.
  • Live your life. Having a colostomy is not the end of life as you know it. Modern colostomy supplies are designed to lie flat and are not noticeable under clothing. Most colostomy patients are able to return to work and to many of the activities -- including sex -- they enjoyed before surgery.
  • Consider colostomy irrigation. Some people find that a process called colostomy irrigation, which uses an enema through the stoma, clears the colon for the day and a bag may not be necessary. Talk to your doctor to find out if you are a candidate.

Be sure to talk with your doctor or the nurse about resuming your normal activities and about any concerns you have about living with your colostomy.

Colostomy Warning

In some cases of colostomy, skin irritation or infection can result from stool that leaks under the bag. A hernia can develop around a colostomy, and the bowel may become narrow. Taking good care of your stoma and eating a balanced diet can help you avoid these problems.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Sujana Movva, MD on July 27, 2014
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
The right diagnosis is the most important factor.
man with a doctor
Our health check will steer you in the right direction.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
bladder cancer x-ray
Do you know the warning signs?
Colon vs Rectal Cancer
New Colorectal Treatments
can lack of sleep affect your immune system
Cancer Facts Quiz
Virtual Colonoscopy
Picture of the Colon
Vitamin D