Colostomy: A Guide

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Returning to work

As your strength returns, you can go back to your regular activities. If you go back to work, you may want to tell your employer or a good friend about your colostomy. Being open about it will help educate others. Keeping it a complete secret may cause practical problems.

People with colostomies (sometimes called colostomates) can do most jobs. But heavy lifting may cause a stoma to herniate (the whole thing bulges outward) or prolapse (the inside falls outward). A sudden blow in the pouch area could cause the face plate to shift and cut the stoma. Still, there are colostomates who do heavy lifting, such as fire fighters, mechanics, and truck drivers. There are athletes who have stomas, too. Check with your doctor about your type of work. As with all major surgery, it will take time for you to regain strength after your operation. A letter from your doctor to your employer may be helpful should your employer have doubts about what you will be able to do.

Sometimes people with a colostomy find that their employer thinks the colostomy will keep them from doing their job. This also happens to some colostomates who are applying for new jobs. You should know that your right to work may be protected by parts of the US Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1992, and sometimes by sections of your state and local laws. If you feel you are being treated unfairly because of your colostomy, check with the United Ostomy Associations of America or with a local legal resource about protecting your rights.

Last Medical Review: 03/17/2011
Last Revised: 03/17/2011