Every year on the first Saturday of October, people worldwide come together to celebrate World Ostomy Day, also known as Ostomy Awareness Day. This day serves as a reminder of the resilience, strength, and courage millions of individuals display each year living with an ostomy. It’s a day to raise awareness, break stigmas, and empower those living with ostomies to lead fulfilling lives.
According to an article by the National Library of Medicine, approximately 18% - 35% of colorectal cancer patients and survivors have received temporary or permanent ostomies. Here at the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, we seek to highlight the importance of World Ostomy Day, the challenges faced by ostomy patients, and the incredible community that is here to support them.
Understanding Ostomy Surgery
Before diving into the significance of World Ostomy Day, it’s important first to understand what ostomy surgery is. Ostomy surgery is a procedure that creates an opening – also known as a stoma – in the abdomen. Waste products are then expelled from the body into an external pouch called an ostomy bag.
This surgery is often necessary for individuals who have had their colon, rectum, or bladder removed due to medical conditions such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, colorectal cancer, or bladder cancer.
Challenges Faced by Ostomy Patients
Living with an ostomy can be challenging, both physically and emotionally. Individuals with ostomies often face a range of issues, including:
- Body image concerns – Many patients struggle with body image issues and self-esteem. They may feel self-conscious about the visible stoma or worry about how others might perceive them.
- Dietary adjustments – Diet can be a significant concern for ostomy patients. Certain foods can cause discomfort or blockages, requiring careful dietary management.
- Skin irritations – The skin around the stoma can be sensitive and prone to irritation. Finding the right ostomy products and skin care routine is essential.
- Emotional and psychological impact – The emotional toll of living with an ostomy can be significant. An ostomate experiences many different changes to their lifestyle, including impact on sexual health and relationships. Depression, anxiety, and social isolation are not uncommon, which is why mental health support is crucial.
Because we understand how impactful these things can be to a person’s overall well-being, the Alliance has a variety of resources to assist people with ostomies. We aim to help ostomates lead healthier and more fulfilling lives.
Alliance Ostomy Resources
Alliance support navigators are here to help CRC patients, survivors, and ostomates every step of the way. To speak with a navigator in a confidential setting, call the Alliance’s free Helpline at (877) 422-2030.
Additionally, we have compiled ostomy information on our website for easy use and accessibility. Here, we cover:
- Nutrition & hydration with an ostomy
- Sexual health for ostomates
- Physical activity for ostomates
- Care & pain management
A volunteer-led Ostomy Group Chat meets once a month. Sign up to attend here, and we'll send you an email invitation each month.
Finally, our free Buddy Program may be a good resource for ostomates looking to connect with other CRC patients and survivors. A number of studies have shown the benefits of peer-to-peer support for oncology patients.
Most importantly, we want ostomates to know that they’re not alone. There are multiple resources available at no cost, including the Alliance resources listed above.
Why World Ostomy Day Matters
World Ostomy Day is an opportunity to celebrate and advocate for ostomy patients worldwide. The significance of this international holiday includes:
- Raising awareness – This internationally-recognized holiday serves to raise awareness about ostomy surgery and its impact on individual lives. You can support this initiative by raising awareness in your social circles, helping to reduce stigma, and dispelling misconceptions.
- Empowerment – World Ostomy Day may empower ostomy patients by encouraging them to open up about their stories, struggles, and triumphs. By giving ostomates a platform, we can nurture a new narrative for ostomates. Because of ostomies, countless lives are saved each year.
- Education & Advocacy – Celebrating World Ostomy Day is a great way to help educate the public, healthcare professionals, and policymakers about the needs and rights of ostomy patients. By advocating for essential supplies and support services for ostomates, we can begin to improve healthcare and ostomy-related issues.
- Community building – World Ostomy Day allows for a sense of community among ostomy patients. Support groups, events, and social media campaigns may provide better opportunities to connect and share experiences.
At the Alliance, we’re not just passionate about ending colorectal cancer in our lifetimes. We’re also committed to improving the lives of people living with CRC right now, many of whom are living with an ostomy.
How You Can Support World Ostomy Day
There are many ways to get involved this World Ostomy Day.
- Spread awareness – Share this article on social media, blogs, or in your community.
- Advocate – If this is an issue you feel strongly about, consider joining advocacy efforts to improve healthcare policies and access for ostomy patients. The United Ostomy Associations of America is a great place to start.
- Volunteer – Many organizations welcome volunteers to help with events, fundraisers, and support groups. You may even consider volunteering with us to make a difference in the lives of CRC patients living with an ostomy.
- Offer support – If you know someone with an ostomy, offer your support, understanding, and empathy. Share resources you may become aware of.
With the right support, ostomy patients can lead normal and fulfilling lives. By getting involved this World Ostomy Day, we can make a positive difference for those living with ostomies. We hope you’ll join the Alliance as we work to empower, advocate for, and support ostomates to live happier, healthier lives.
My cancer and ostomy journey began with a rude awakening in January 2023. My father was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at 42, and given that history, I asked my doctor at my yearly physical when I should begin screening.
In this video, ostomate and certified patient and family support navigator Stephanie Rouse demonstrates how to cut and fit an ostomy wafer, or skin barrier, for a stoma.
This is such an important day of your colorectal cancer journey that you should celebrate!