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What Is a Colostomy?

What exactly is a colostomy? My doctor said that my cancer treatment will likely involve this option at some point.

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A colostomy is a surgical procedure that creates a new opening in the belly for stool to pass through. Although surgical techniques and specifics vary depending on many factors, the general gist of it is that the large intestine is cut (and sometimes a portion is removed) and the healthy end is pulled through an opening in the belly and stitched in place on top of the skin. Sometimes, this is done temporarily, such as for "bowel rest," but often it is a permanent change.
A colostomy is, more than anything, a change in the way stool exits the body. Colostomies don't affect nutrition, since it is the small intestine, not the large intestine, that absorbs nutrients. Many unique challenges must be faced by someone undergoing a colostomy (and many new things need to be learned), and there are several different ways to solve the problems and challenges that may arise. Having access to a good medical team -- especially to a great nurse who specializes in colostomy care -- can make the transition and adjustment as easy as possible.
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