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Texas Cancer Patients Will Now Have Greater Access to Surgeries During the Pandemic Under Revised Regulations

Publication: SurvivorNet

Over the past several months, cancer surgeries in many cities have been heavily disrupted by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Now, in Texas, cancer patients will finally be able to have access to the surgeries they desperately need.

Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbot released an executive order announcing hospitals must reserve 25% of their capacity to tend to confirmed COVID-19 patients, but surgery restrictions enacted to deal with the virus will be lifted so more cancer patients can have access to treatment. Prior to this executive order, many cancer patients had been facing delayed surgeries, but now they will be able to reschedule and receive treatment immediately. At the moment, Texas hasn’t been as heavily hit by coronavirus as other states such as New York, and the new regulations seem to reflect that.

“We support Governor Abbot’s executive order to loosen the restrictions,” Allison A. DiPasquale, M.D., Texas Breast Specialists-Dallas, tells SurvivorNet. “As a surgeon we do  operate as our mainstay of curing the patient, especially since I’m a breast cancer surgeon, surgery is technically the cure.”

The restrictions will be lifted effectively, and Dr. DiPasquale says that each hospital within the state is forming their own re-entry plan in helping patients receive surgery. In her own case, she says that she’s already started scheduling surgeries this week.

“I was still operating over the past several weeks, but not as much,” Dr. DiPasquale says. “Now we’re able to open up and get those surgeries going. The hospitals are working tirelessly with Texas Oncology to get those cancer patients at the forefront of these surgical therapies.”

Dr. DiPasquale says patients are excited at the opportunity to receive surgery quicker than many of them might have expected, but medical teams have been working through treatment options even before these restrictions were lifted. Prior to Governor Abbot’s order, Dr. DiPasquale and her team have been helping patients’ recovery through telemedicine and finding other ways to reduce patients’ exposure to Covid-19 while receiving treatment. She had been providing patients with neoadjuvant chemotherapies, which are drugs given to breast cancer patients before surgery as a way to shrink their tumors and protect their bodies. In separate interviews, oncologists tell SurvivorNet that oral chemotherapies have been a common way oncologists have been treating patients without exposing them to Covid-19.

However, with the order taking effect immediately, surgery is now an option that could save many cancer patients’ lives.

“The goal is to get the patient taken care of as quickly as possible,” Dr. DiPasquale says. “They’re very excited about this as their next step, and the good news is that we’re going to get to these patients very quickly and we’re going to give them the exacting care that we would have even if Covid-19 hadn’t happened. That’s the good news for these patients.”

This order marks a huge step in cancer care after many elective surgeries have been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, as medical teams find solutions to Covid-19, could more accessible cancer care become an option by following Texas’ approach?

“I would foresee this happening as different states and cities solidify PPE,” Dr. DiPasquale says. “If other states across the country do this I could see this coming back to ‘more normal’ scenarios sooner than expected for surgical cancer patients. This is a very scary time across the world, and to be diagnosed with cancer in this time period can really shake your world. So [cancer patients] knowing that they will be taken care of, that’s what they need to focus on.”

View the full story at SurvivorNet.

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