An ostomy is a surgical procedure that creates an opening on the skin of the abdomen -a stoma or artificial opening that allows the elimination of waste (urine and feces), or on the throat to help with breathing. There are many types of cancer that can require an ostomy, such as bowel cancers, urinary tract cancers or head and neck cancer as well as when the treatment involves an obstruction or interruption of the normal passages.

There are different types of ostomies:

  • Tracheostomy is an opening in the trachea through the throat that provides a new path for air to reach the lungs.
  • Gastrostomy is an opening from the stomach to the abdomen that enables food in liquid form to be inserted directly into the stomach. This is called tube feeding.
  • Colostomy is an opening that connects a part of the colon or large bowel to the abdominal wall to allow for bowel contents to exit through it; the bowel content is collected in a pouch. Colostomies are performed when the colon or rectum is damaged or obstructed. A colostomy can be temporary or permanent, depending on the reasons it was performed in the first place.
  • Ileostomy is a connection between the small intestine and the abdominal wall. This surgery is performed when the small intestine is damaged or obstructed and it needs to be bypassed.
  • Urostomy is a urinary bypass from the kidneys to the abdominal wall to collect urine. Commonly, a piece of intestine is used to bypass the bladder when it is damaged or has been removed due to cancer.[1]

A stoma is the actual opening on the abdominal wall or the throat that all the ostomy procedures create, and this needs daily maintenance. An enterostomal therapy (ET) nurse provides the initial education before and after surgery, which involves education on the daily management of the stoma, adjustments to diet, exercise, and social and marital relations. The Ostoma Canada Society has a very comprehensive website with very detailed information for ostoma patients.

[1] http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/diagnosis-and-treatment/rehabilitation/living-with-an-ostomy/?region=on