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Colorectal Cancer: Ostomy

Appliance Tips

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  • As a general tip, pouches should be changed:
    • When they are about one-third full.  Excessive material may cause the pouch to pull away from the skin resulting in leakage, odor or infection of nearby skin.
    • Before engaging in sex or sports.
    • If you are having a spell of diarrhea.
    • Immediately before travel.
  • Disposable pouches can be emptied into the toilet before being wrapped and put into the trash or they can be disposed of full if well wrapped.
  • With a reusable pouch, first put some toilet tissue into the toilet bowl to prevent splash-back.  After emptying carefully clean and deodorize the pouch.  (Consider getting three pouches: one to wear, one for washing and one for emergencies).
  • You can minimize the risk of odors by doing the following:
    • Choose clothing that keeps the appliance from view while not injuring the stoma or interfering with emptying the appliance.  Some people choose shirts and pants that open in the front to make it easier to access the pouch for cleaning.
    • Eat foods geared to minimize and possibly avoid constipation and diarrhea. (To learn coping tips, click here for constipation and here for diarrhea 
  • Eat foods which reduce the risk and avoid foods which produce gas. Click here to learn about the effect of various foods and drinks on the digestive system.)
  • Be prepared in case of a medical emergency. For instance, wear medical i.d. that describes the type of ostomy you have and the equipment you use. Carry a summary of your medical history in your wallet. To learn more, click here
  • Do not keep supplies in the sun, even in the winter.
  • Think about what to say if there are noises as matter passes through the stoma – perhaps a white lie such as “My intestines have been noisy all my life.”
  • If you have a sigmoid colostomy:  think about how to irrigate your bowel on a schedule that is convenient to you. 
  • Be sure the attachment to the skin fits well and is firmly attached.
  • Release gas which may be in the bag in a safe environment such as a bathroom.
  • Test various skin barriers or seals that rest between your skin and the stoma attachment to be sure they are comfortable and protect the skin from bacteria, moisture and the irritants in adhesives.


  • Do not put supplies in your trunk. If you keep supplies with you, they will never be lost, frozen or stolen.
  • Keep a supply of toilet paper with you “just in case”.
  • When making plans, consider where you will need to stop to empty your pouch.
  • On long car trips, you can hook your pouch to the drainage container.




[i] YES WE CAN! Advice on traveling with an ostomy and tip[s for everyday oliving, Barbara Kupfer etc p.122

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