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Why would I need an ostomy after cancer treatments?

Most ostomies for cancer survivors are done during the first stages of surgical treatment to remove the cancer. However, some may be done months or years later, if there are changes to tissue that was treated with radiation.

If cancer affects the bowel or bladder, there may be a need for a colostomy, a urostomy, or in rare situations, both.

Examples of spread of cancer that can require ostomies include:

  • Cancers of the lymph nodes that spread to the bowel
  • Cancer of the cervix that spreads to the bladder

    An ostomy may also be needed because of treatment side effects from radiation therapy or surgery. For example, radiation to the prostate or cervix may cause a change in the bowel or bladder that interferes with elimination.

    Examples of side effects from treatment that may require ostomies include:

    • Severe bladder or bowel irritation
    • Chronic bleeding after radiation to the uterus, bowel or prostate gland
    • Bowel obstruction after surgery

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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.