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When ovarian cancer is more advanced at the time of diagnosis, it will sometimes have spread to the surface of the bowel (intestine). This may cause a twist or kink in the bowel and is one of the reasons that some women experience the symptom of bloating.

In these cases, in order to ensure that all of the cancer is removed, surgery may include removal of a part of the bowel.

In most instances the affected area of the bowel can be removed and the two ends put back together. However sometimes this is not possible and so your body will need a new way for your stool to exit. In this instance the surgeon will make an opening through your abdominal wall (tummy) and onto the skin and bring the end of the intestine through it. This is called the creation of an ostomy or stoma (an artificial opening).

What kind of ostomy (stoma) will I have?

Whether you have a colostomy or ileostomy depends on which part of the bowel is used. It is commonly called a colostomy if it involves the large intestine (colon) or an ileostomy if it involves the small intestine. The end of the bowel that is open, is sewn directly to the skin and is called a stoma.

In order to ensure that the stool is contained as it leaves the body a special appliance will be attached to the skin, along with a stoma bag which will need to be changed and emptied from time to time. 

Your surgeon should discuss the options with you before surgery, in conjunction with a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) sometimes called a 'stoma nurse'. Although having a stoma is not uncommon, having a stoma in addition to an ovarian cancer diagnosis is a huge event for any woman, so your stoma nurse will continue to support you after the surgery to help you get used to this new way of life.

Is a stoma permanent? 

In the case of ovarian cancer a stoma is often temporary. This means that at some point in the future the surgeon may be able to take you back to theatre and reverse the surgery so that you no longer have the stoma. It is important to remember that all cases are different and you would need to discuss your individual case with your surgeon.

How do I find out more?

  • The Colostomy Association provides support, reassurance and practical advice to anyone who has or is about to have surgery in the UK
  • Stomawise is an internet based support website for people of all ages who have had an ostomy