What is an ostomy for a cancer survivor?

The word ostomy means opening. An ostomy is a surgical opening from an organ inside the body to the outside of the body. It allows for drainage from the body to the outside or for entry of nutrients into the body and can be created from different parts of the body. The opening on the surface of the body is called a "stoma." Many cancer survivors with an ostomy refer to it as a "stoma."

Due to surgical advances, a relative few number of cancer survivors need an ostomy. For example, surgeons now have surgical instruments that allow connection of the rectum back to the colon with less tissue than once was required for patients with rectal cancer. But for those who do require an ostomy, it is often a lifesaving surgery.

Although about 100,000 ostomy surgeries are performed annually, many are for conditions not related to cancer. These are the most common ostomy types for in cancer survivors:
  • Colostomy: A surgical opening from the large bowel or colon to the abdomen to allow fecal matter to pass to the outside of the body.
  • Ileostomy: An opening in the ileum, a part of the small bowel, to the abdomen. Small bowel contents can pass through to the outside of the body.
  • Urostomy: An opening in the urinary system where urine can pass to the outside.
Less common types of ostomies are:
  • Jejunostomy: Opening into the jejunum, a part of the small bowel, to allow feeding.
  • Gastrostomy: Opening from the stomach to the outside of the body, to allow feeding.
  • Tracheostomy: Opening from the trachea to protect the airway.
  • Internal ostomies: A surgical opening between two internal organs rather than bringing one opening out to the surface of the body.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.