Different types of cancer and treatment can affect the function of your bladder and/or bowels.
Some people become unable to control their bladder or bowel, this is known as incontinence. For other people, a stoma is required. A stoma is a surgically created opening in the abdomen that allows bladder and bowel movements (wee and poo) to leave the body. The end of the bowel is brought out through the opening and stitched onto the skin.
There are services available to help manage both incontinence and stomas.
Ask your treatment team
If you are experiencing issues with incontinence, it is important to tell your treatment team. Ask about the options that are available to help you manage any continence issues you are facing. They are likely to be able to provide you with support and resources or will be able to refer you to a service that can help.
If there is a chance you could need a stoma, the surgeon will probably refer you to a stomal therapy nurse before surgery. Stomal therapy nurses are registered nurses with special training in stoma care, and are available at most major hospitals, district nursing agencies and in private practice. A stomal therapy nurse can talk to you about the best position for the stoma, answer questions about your surgery and recovery, and give you information about adjusting to life with a stoma.
Questions to ask about this service
When looking at a service it is important to ask questions about how the service works before you decide to engage with them. Below is a list of questions you might like to ask when enquiring about a service.
Am I eligible?
Some services have specific criteria that a person must meet before they are able to use a service, for example location, means testing or a specific cancer type. It is important to know if you are eligible to access a service right from the start.
Do I need a referral?
Some services require a referral from your specialist, GP or a social worker. This helps to make sure that the right patients are being connected with the right services. It’s a good idea to ask if a referral is needed and if so, exactly what type of referral the service requires.
How much will this cost me?
Some services are free, and some come at a cost. At a time when people should be focused on their treatment and recovery, the cost of cancer can be a source of stress and worry for many. It’s a good idea to ask about the fees attached to a service and if there are any subsidies or benefits you might be eligible for before committing to the service. It’s important to know that you are within your rights to ask about the cost of a service or treatment before agreeing to take part. For more information you can visit cancer and your finances.
Is there a wait time?
Sometimes demand for a service is high which can cause wait times. You might find it helpful to ask if there are any wait times for the services you are looking at, especially if you require support as soon as possible.
What services do you offer?
Some organisations provide a range of services for people affected by cancer, their family, friends and carers. It is a good idea to ask about exactly what services are available to you.
Will I be treated as an inpatient or an outpatient?
Depending on the type of treatment or care you are receiving you may be seen as an inpatient or an outpatient. You are considered an inpatient if you have been admitted to the hospital for treatment. Alternatively, you are considered an outpatient when you receive treatment at a hospital, but without being admitted. It’s important to know if you are going to be treated as an inpatient or an outpatient as this can impact the cost of treatment, and will help you to understand the amount of time you might need to spend at the hospital.
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