This page provides a brief overview of the creation of a stoma as part of ovarian cancer surgery. For more detailed information about stomas, stoma care and how to cope with a stoma, please order or download our expert mini guide, Ovarian cancer and stomas, contact our nurse-led Support Line, or watch our video below.
We also have short video clips that answer your questions (these videos will open in a new window):
- What is a stoma and how does it work?
- How do I cope with a stoma?
- I'm worried about it smelling or leaking.
- What if I have problems coping?
- Do I have to wear different clothes or consider anything else?
- Is a stoma permanent?
What is a stoma?
When ovarian cancer is more advanced at the time of diagnosis, it will sometimes have spread to the surface of the bowel (intestine).
In these cases, in order to ensure that as much of the cancer as possible is removed, your surgery may include removing a part of the bowel.
Sometimes the affected area of the bowel can be removed and the two ends joined back together. But if this is not possible your body will need a new way to get rid of faeces (poo). In these cases, the surgeon will make an opening through your abdominal wall (tummy) and bring the end of the bowel through the skin. This is called the creation of an ostomy or stoma (an artificial opening). The faeces (poo) is then collected in a stoma bag which is attached to your abdomen (tummy).
Is there just one type of stoma?
There are two different types of stoma that you might have after ovarian cancer surgery. The type that you have and the name it is given depends on which part of the bowel your surgeon needs to use. A colostomy is formed from the large bowel (colon) and an ileostomy is formed from the small bowel (ileum). In both cases the open end of the bowel is sewn onto the skin and is called a stoma.
"The easiest way to describe it is, do an 'ooh' shape with your lips and look in the mirror! The shape and pinkness is about correct." Helen
How does it actually work?
Your bowel will still work as normal but the faeces (poo) will be diverted out of the stoma into the stoma bag. Your stoma just means your bowel opening is in a different place from before. A removable bag (stoma bag) will be fitted snugly around your stoma and this will keep the faeces (poo) contained as they are expelled from your bowel. The stoma bag will needs to be emptied and/or changed from time to time. There are lots of different stoma bags and the type you have will depend on the type of stoma you have.
Is a stoma permanent?
In many cases of ovarian cancer a stoma is intended to be temporary. This means that at some point in the future you may be able to have further surgery that means 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 and healthcare team.
How do I learn to cope with a stoma?
Although having a stoma is not uncommon, having a stoma in addition to an ovarian cancer diagnosis is a huge event for anyone. Some people find the prospect of having a stoma more difficult to cope with than their ovarian cancer diagnosis. You are not alone: there is help and support available.
"I'm coming up to three years with my stoma. Be kind to yourself and give yourself time, you are not on your own. I do everything I did before my ovarian cancer and my stoma. It doesn't have to be a negative experience." Helen
Where can I find out more?
- Order or download our expert mini guide, Ovarian cancer and stomas, for lots more information and support to help you cope with a stoma.
- Our nurse-led Support Line provides confidential information, support and signposting for anyone affected by ovarian cancer.
- Colostomy UK provides support, information, reassurance and practical advice to anyone who has or is about to have stoma surgery in the UK. They also have a 24-hour stoma Support Line which offers experienced based support from volunteers, and a closed Facebook group.
- The Ileostomy and Internal Pouch Association supports people living with an ileostomy and their families, friends and carers.