- Cancer Information
- Managing side effects
- Sexuality, intimacy and cancer
- Overcoming specific challenges
- Adapting to life with a stoma
Adapting to life with a stoma
Some types of surgery for bowel, anal or bladder cancer create a stoma – an opening in the abdomen that allows faeces (poo) or urine (pee or wee) to flow through and be collected in a small plastic bag. Sometimes a stoma is needed for only a short time, but in other cases it is permanent.
Having a stoma can affect your confidence and self-image, though a stoma often causes more embarrassment and distress to the person with a stoma than their partner. Getting used to looking after the stoma will help you feel more confident. Sexual activity for people with a stoma may need a little more planning but can still be satisfying and fulfilling.
Tips for sex if you have a stoma
- Change the bag and check the seal before having sex. This may help with worries about leaking.
- If you prefer, cover your bag with fabric or fold it in half and cover with a cummerbund to prevent the plastic clinging to your skin or the bag from flopping around. This can also help to keep it out of sight if that is a concern.
- Wear clothing that makes you feel good, such as a mini-slip, short nightgown or nightshirt, specially designed underwear or boxer shorts.
- Try sex in the bath/shower.
- After a heavy meal, wait for 2–3 hours before having sex.
- Talk to your stomal therapy nurse about learning irrigation to allow you to use a stoma cap or a small pouch (a “mini”) during sex.
- Use pouch deodorants or wear perfume to help control any odours.
- Allow your partner to see or touch the stoma.
- Contact a stoma association for support. Find one near you at The Australian Council of Stoma Associations.
Podcast: Sex and Cancer
Dr Margaret McGrath, Head of Discipline: Occupational Therapy, Sydney School of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, NSW; Yvette Adams, Consumer; Dr Kimberley Allison, Out with Cancer study, Western Sydney University, NSW; Andreea Ardeleanu, Mental Health Accredited Social Worker, Cancer Counselling Service, Canberra Health Service, ACT; Kate Barber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Dr Kerrie Clover, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Psycho-Oncology Service, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Maree Grier, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Mark Jenkin, Consumer; Bronwyn Jennings, Gynaecology Oncology Clinical Nurse Consultant, Mater Health, QLD; Dr Rosalie Power, Out with Cancer study, Western Sydney University, NSW; Dr Margaret Redelman OAM, Medical Practitioner and Clinical Psychosexual Therapist, Sydney, NSW; Kerry Santoro, Prostate Cancer Specialist Nurse Consultant, Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, SA; Simone Sheridan, Sexual Health Nurse Consultant, Sexual Health Services – Austin Health, Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre, VIC; Prof Jane Ussher, Chair, Women’s Heath Psychology and Chief Investigator, Out with Cancer study, Western Sydney University, NSW; Paula Watt, Clinical Psychologist, WOMEN Centre, WA.
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