Stoma Support & Information

Treatment for bowel cancer sometimes involves a stoma, 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.

Understandably, being told you need need a colostomy/ileostomy can be upsetting; there may be all kinds of questions you need answers to that you haven’t yet been able to put to the clinical professionals involved in your treatment, so this page is here to help provide you with 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.

Will it hurt?
No –  there are no nerve endings or muscle tone 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 do the bags 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.

Community support
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 are local to Guildford, 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. If you’re outside of the local area, the hospital stoma nurses will refer you to a stoma nurse in your area.


Next meetings:

St Marks Church Hall, Normandy GU3 2DA – just turn up, no need to book.
If you wish to discuss particular issues beforehand call 01483 571122, ext 2558.

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