Our short video should answer some of your questions.
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 isn't 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 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's 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.
How does it actually work?
Your bowel will still work as normal but the faeces 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. This will keep the faeces contained as they are expelled from your bowel. The stoma bag will need 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's important to remember that all cases are different and you would need to discuss your individual case with your surgeon and medical team.
How do I learn to cope with a stoma?
Although having a stoma isn't 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're 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.
Our 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.