Ostomy Care

Our ostomy experts are here to answer your questions and support you during and after treatment.

If you have colon cancer or rectal cancer, you may need an ostomy as part of your treatment plan. It’s natural to feel worried, concerned, or confused about what’s involved with an ostomy and how to care for it.

Many ostomies are temporary -- a year or less -- while a patient’s body heals after treatment for colon or rectal cancer. We here for every part of your ostomy care whether yours is temporary or permanent.

Frequently asked questions about ostomy care

We have the answers to some of the most common questions patients ask us about ostomies.

  • What is an ostomy?

    An ostomy is an opening a surgeon creates to bring part of the intestine outside the body. It allows waste to leave the body while your colon or rectum heals.

    Most ostomies are temporary while patients recover from treatment. They keep these ostomies for six to 12 months. Then the surgeon reconnects the bowel. (Patients recovering from colon cancer may have temporary ostomies.)

    Some patients will use the ostomy forever. This is necessary when the surgeon must remove certain parts of the rectum because of rectal cancer.

    Colostomy and ileostomy are two types of ostomy.


    During a colostomy, the surgeon brings part of the colon out through the abdomen. A colostomy may be temporary or permanent. The part of the colon outside the abdominal wall is the stoma.


    An ileostomy is an opening that brings part of the small intestine out to the abdomen. Ileostomies may be temporary or permanent.

  • What ostomy treatments will I need after my cancer surgery?

    After surgeons remove cancer from the colon or rectum, you might need an ostomy while your body heals.

    Our ostomy experts offer:

    • Experience in creating stomas (artificial holes in the body): All stomas are not alike. Our surgeons create stomas that make the process as simple and straightforward as possible.
    • Internal anal reservoirs: We offer internal anal reservoir surgery (also called an ileoanal reservoir or a J-pouch). This allows you to use your existing anal muscles for continence, even when most of the colon or rectum must be removed.
    • Specialized stoma nurses: Our specially trained nurses and nurse practitioners provide advanced care for patients who have an ostomy.
  • What will I be able to do after I have an ostomy?

    While an ostomy may not be what you would wish for, you can do everything you did before with an ostomy. You can run, golf, work, have sex, and live your usual life.

    Our certified ostomy nurse practitioners are here to help patients learn to live with an ostomy. These nurses are certified by the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB). We offer:

    • Outpatient visits: The ostomy nurse practitioners at our Ostomy Clinic see every Henry Ford patient who is scheduled to have some kind of surgery that will result in a colostomy or an ileostomy, as well as a urostomy for bladder cancer. People who are not Henry Ford patients can make appointments to see us too.
    • Education before surgery: Before your operation, we’ll meet with you and go over the whole process. We’ll explain the procedure and show you sample pouches. We also will talk about what it means to have an ostomy, answer questions, and help you find support groups.
    • Marking the ostomy site: Before surgery, our certified ostomy nurses will assess your belly and mark the best place for the surgeon to make the ostomy. Research shows preoperative marking improves patients’ quality of life and health after surgery.
    • Advice any time after surgery: We can help you evaluate the pouching system you choose and work out any problems.
    • Prescribing ostomy supplies: Our nurse practitioners can prescribe ostomy supplies, so you do not need to schedule a separate visit with a doctor just for supplies.
  • What support options are available after my ostomy?

    We offer a wide variety of education and support options for patients with colon, rectal, and anal cancers here at Henry Ford. But we also connect patients who have had an ostomy with support resources specific to their needs and concerns.

    You don’t need to face this challenge alone. There are others who have been where you are and can help you find the answers you need.

    Some of the support resources we offer include:

    • Monthly support group: Henry Ford’s ostomy support group meets once a month at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital.
    • Online support: Online support is available too. Ask an ostomy nurse how to contact us online.
    • Find a local support group: If you live outside Detroit and need a local support group, visit the United Ostomy Associations of America, or call the organization toll-free at 1-800-826-0826.
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