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Serious Medicine. Extraordinary Care.

Learning to Take Care of Stomas After Surgery for Colorectal Cancer

Depending upon the type of surgery you had, your doctor may have created an opening, called an ostomy or stoma. This is a hole in your abdomen for waste to leave your body. It may be temporary or permanent. The waste flows through the stoma into a bag that collects the waste until you empty it.

A stoma may cause skin irritation or a hernia, or it may increase in size. Making sure you have a properly fitting bag can usually relieve skin irritation. Hernias require surgery but are not serious. A widening stoma requires surgery. Although the idea of having a bag like this attached to your body can be scary, keep in mind that many people live a long life with an ostomy.

Your doctor or nurse will teach you how to cope with a J pouch or stoma. You may also work with someone called an enterostomal therapist (ET) who can help you take care of your J-pouch or stoma.