Returning to work after getting an ileostomy

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 ileostomy. Being open about it will help educate others. Keeping it a complete secret may cause practical problems.

People with ileostomies 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 to the pouch area could cause the face plate to shift and cut the stoma. Still, there are people with ileostomies do heavy lifting and work 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 the employer have doubts about you’ll be able to do.

Being able to find work is an issue for some people with ostomies. You can get help from health care professionals and/or talk with others who have found solutions. 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, and sometimes by sections of your state and local laws. If you feel you are being treated unfairly because of your ileostomy, check with the United Ostomy Associations of America or with a local legal resource about protecting your rights. You may also want to read Americans With Disabilities Act: Information for People Facing Cancer.

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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