Pandemic or not, Robert Silverio wasn’t about to skip his colonoscopy appointment.
After watching his late mother’s difficult battle with colon cancer, the Pawleys Island man, 72, became determined to avoid finding himself in a similar situation. He makes sure to benefit from regular colonoscopies, which are one of the best ways to catch colon cancer early when it is more successfully treated.
“What I saw my mom go through, I don’t want to go through that,” he says. “It’s a horrible, horrible disease.”
His commitment to the screening may have saved his life.
An unexpected change
In November, Tidelands Health gastroenterologist Dr. Sebastian Abadie removed several polyps from Silverio’s colon and asked him to return six months later for a follow-up visit.
In the meantime, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and life across the world changed. Because of his age, Silverio is considered to be at high risk for the illness, but he never questioned going to his follow-up colonoscopy with Dr. Abadie in June.
“COVID-19 is bad, but my bigger fear is the colon cancer,” says Silverio.
Immediately upon arrival at Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital for the visit, Silverio was struck by the enhanced safety measures put in place by Tidelands Health to protect and reassure patients it’s safe to receive the care they need during the pandemic. The enhanced “Safe in Our Care” safety measures, which have been implemented across the health system’s 60-plus care locations, include universal masking, temperature checks, contactless check-in, telehealth visits and more.
“It was totally different this time,” he says. “We had to be screened, questions were asked, temperatures were taken, a mask was issued and off we went,” he says. “I was glad they do that to protect patients and staff as well as myself. I think it’s a good thing.”
A concerning discovery
Two additional polyps – including a potentially precancerous polyp – were removed from Silverio’s colon during the follow-up visit with Dr. Abadie. Throughout the encounter, Dr. Abadie and other members of Silverio’s care team wore personal protective equipment designed to keep everyone involved safe.
Asked about the outcome if he had decided to postpone the visit, Silverio didn’t mince words.
“I think I would have been in trouble,” says Silverio, who says he was extremely impressed the care he received from both Dr. Abadie and the nursing staff at Tidelands Waccamaw. He was referred to Dr. Abadie by Tidelands Health family nurse practitioner Kathleen Boone, his primary care provider at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Pawleys Island.
Instead, Silverio’s prognosis is good, and he won’t need to undergo another colonoscopy for three years.
It’s important for patients to continue with colonoscopies and other preventive screenings during the pandemic, Dr. Abadie says. In general, colonoscopies start at age 50, though patients with a family history of colon cancer may need to start undergoing the procedure at an earlier age.
Some patients may need to receive colonoscopies more frequently than others depending on risk factors such as a family history of colon cancer and the size and types of polyps identified during previous colonoscopies.
Unfortunately, Dr. Abadie says, the symptoms of colon cancer may not be evident early on, which can allow the cancer to spread and become more difficult to treat.
“In some cases, when patients start having symptoms, it’s too late,” Dr. Abadie says. “That’s why, even during the pandemic, it’s so important to be screened.”