Telling others about your colostomy

You might be worried about how others will accept you and how your social life may change. It’s natural to think about how you’ll explain your surgery. Your friends and relatives may ask questions about your operation. Tell them only as much as you want them to know. Don’t feel as if you have to explain your surgery to everyone who asks. A clear, brief answer would be that you had abdominal surgery, or that you had part of your intestine removed.

If you have children, answer their questions simply and truthfully. A simple explanation is often enough for them. Once you have explained what a colostomy is they may ask questions about it and want to see your stoma or the pouch. Talking about your surgery in a natural way will help get rid of any wrong ideas that they may have. They will accept your colostomy much the same way you do.

If you’re single and dating, you can pick your time to tell a new partner, but it might be better to do so early in a relationship. Stress the fact that this surgery was necessary and managing your colostomy does not affect your activities and enjoyment of life. This not only lessens your anxiety, but if there is an issue that cannot be overcome, the letdown is not as harsh as it might be later. Do not wait until intimate sexual contact leads to discovery.

If you’re in a relationship, married, or considering marriage, talk with your partner about life with a colostomy and its effect on sex, children, and your lifestyle. Going to an ostomy support group meeting together may also be helpful. Talking to other couples in which one partner has a colostomy will give you both an experienced point of view. See Intimacy and Sexuality When You Have a Colostomy for more on this.

In its original form this document was written by the United Ostomy Association, Inc. (1962-2005) and reviewed by Jan Clark, RNET, CWOCN and Peg Grover, RNET. It has since been modified and updated by:

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: December 2, 2014 Last Revised: December 2, 2014

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