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Don’t Delay Health Screenings and Elective Surgeries

January 27, 2023
Dr. Hatem Abdallah

Delaying elective surgery and screenings can have very real, undesired consequences for both patients and their families. Here, Dr. Hatem Abdallah, MUSC Florence Division's Medical Director for Robotic Surgery, discusses the importance of getting that hernia removal or mammogram for the best patient outcomes.

As a general surgeon, it is common to see patients with what is otherwise considered a very manageable surgical problem come in through the emergency department at a much later stage of their disease process. Typically, the surgical treatment involved at that point is significantly more complex and becomes more of a burden on the patient and their family in the long run. This frequently results in a longer hospital stay with less desirable long-term effects, including worse clinical outcomes.


Elective procedures can include taking care of that hernia that’s been bothering you. Hernias treated electively are usually performed as an outpatient surgery. Even some complex hernias can involve only a short overnight stay. Symptomatic hernias left untreated will often require emergency surgery with less favorable outcomes for the patient, including longer hospital stays and increased overall morbidity in addition to higher complication rates.


Colonoscopy is another example of an annual screening not to avoid. Colon cancer, when diagnosed at an early stage, can sometimes be treated without surgery at all.


Early detection of breast cancer can be determined through a mammogram. Most early breast cancers can typically be taken care of by outpatient surgery followed by treatment by an oncology team. Breast cancer presenting at later stages limits the number of options available for what is otherwise a typically very treatable problem.

What You Can Do

With numerous advances in medical and surgical technology, many medical problems which were historically challenging to take care of, can now frequently be treated with a straightforward procedure. This can sometimes be lifesaving as well as a significant improvement in a patient’s overall quality of life.

One way to achieve this is through timely patient education. Just have a conversation with your medical provider regarding what treatment options exist can make all the difference.

I encourage all patients to ask questions about their annual screenings, as well as what possible surgical options are available. I also encourage patients to do their research and seek out a second opinion when possible. Early and timely elective interventions are the key to significant improvement in patient outcomes with far less impact on a patient’s life compared to when care is delayed.

No matter how busy life gets, take the time to get your screenings completed and get that elective surgery taken care of. It may prove to be the best decision you make for you and your family this year.

Speak with your primary care physician now to discuss what screenings are individually relevant to your age, risk factors, family history and more by calling. To schedule an appointment, call 843-792-1414 or launch MUSC Health MyChart.

Dr. Hatem Abdallah is a board-certified, fellowship-trained general surgeon and serves as the MUSC Florence Division's Medical Director for Robotic Surgery.