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Colon Cancer

Colostomy reversal

03/30/2011

Question:

My father recently had a colonoscopy that discovered a cancerous growth. He’s been scheduled for surgery in a couple of weeks. The surgeon said that he will likely have a colostomy for a few weeks, but that it will probably be reversible. I wasn’t at the appointment so I couldn’t ask the doctor about this. Could you either point me to some resources or explain how a colostomy can be reversed? I thought it was permanent.

Answer:

A stoma (whether small bowel - ileostomy; large bowel - colostomy) or other, can be permanent or temporary. A temporary stoma for 8-12 weeks is usually for rectal cancer. This permits the surgeon to do a joining (anastomosis) in the bowel after removing the diseased segment, but divert stool away, by bringing a loop of bowel up to skin as a temporary stoma. This is usually an ileostomy, not a colostomy, however. The Crohns and Colitis Foundation website has good resources for this.

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Response by:

Conor P Delaney, MD, PhD Conor P Delaney, MD, PhD
Professor of Surgery
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University