Is a colostomy permanent?

A colostomy can be permanent or temporary, depending on the condition being treated and the surgery performed. A temporary colostomy may be done to allow part of the intestine to rest and heal. Only 10% of patients with rectal cancer and less than 1% with colon cancer will need a permanent colostomy.

How will a colostomy change my life?

If you do need to have a colostomy, there will be some changes in your lifestyle, but generally, you can do all the same activities as someone who doesn’t have a colostomy.

While in the hospital after your surgery, we will teach you how to take care of the colostomy. You will learn how to empty and change the pouch. Some patients find that a process called colostomy irrigation, which uses an enema through the stoma, clears the colon for the day so a pouch may not be necessary. We will also help arrange for a nurse to come to your home to reinforce what you’ve learned in the hospital. Medical supply stores and some drug stores carry supplies to help you care for your colostomy. You will need to check with your insurance carrier to determine if it covers colostomy supplies.

Some patients find the advice and support of other colostomy patients helpful. There are ostomy support groups available to provide additional information and emotional support.

With a colostomy, you may have to regulate your diet to avoid constipation or diarrhea.

Here are some additional tips to help you adjust to your colostomy:

  • Monitor your medications. Some medicines can cause constipation or diarrhea.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet. Avoid foods that cause excessive gas. A dietitian can help you choose a balanced diet that will not interfere with your colostomy.
  • Live your life. Modern colostomy supplies are odor-proof, 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 physical intimacy with another person – they enjoyed before surgery.

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

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/07/2016.

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