- 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 or bladder cancer create a stoma – an opening in the abdomen that allows faeces or urine to flow through and be collected in a small plastic bag. Often 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 before intercourse. If you prefer, cover your bag with fabric or a cummerbund to prevent the plastic clinging to your skin.
- Wear clothing that makes you feel good – a mini-slip, short nightgown or nightshirt, specially designed underwear or boxer shorts.
- Have 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.
The most distressing time for me was immediately post op when my side effects were many, varied and quite severe, even though most turned out to be temporary.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Helena Green, Clinical Sexologist and Counsellor, inSync for Life, WA; Anita Brown-Major, Occupational Therapist, Thrive Rehab, VIC; Karina Campbell, Consumer; Nicole Kinnane, Nurse Consultant, Gynae-oncology Services, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Jessica Medd, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Headway Health and Concord Hospital, NSW; Chris Rivett, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Kath Schubach, Urology Nurse Practitioner, President – Australia and New Zealand Urological Nurses Society (ANZUNS), VIC; Prof Jane Ussher, Chair, Women’s Health Psychology, Translational Health Research Institute (THRI), School of Medicine, Western Sydney University, NSW; Maria Voukelatos, Consumer. We would like to thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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