Elective surgeries, medical procedures resume Wednesday; welcome news for those seeking cancer screenings

Elective surgeries and medical procedures will now be allowed to resume starting Wednesday. It's part of Governor Greg Abbott’s reopening plan for the state.

With the restrictions loosened, almost all surgeries and procedures could now technically resume as long it does not interfere with two things: hospital capacity or the amount of PPE available.

Election procedures include physical examinations, non-invasive diagnostic tests, the performing of lab tests, or obtaining specimens to perform laboratory tests, according to the Texas Medical Board. Non-urgent, elective procedures and surgeries are non-life-threatening and will not worsen with the time delay.  

The order means those waiting for cancer screenings can now get their concerns addressed.

"I finished all of my radiation and I rang the bell in mid-February so thank goodness," said Kayla Collazo.

Collazo beat breast cancer two months ago after initially being misdiagnosed multiple times over the course of 2.5 years. She's urging anyone who has suspicions about a lump to get screened right away. 

"I had a total of four mammograms and ultrasounds during that time and every one of them they said it was just a cyst," Collazo said. 

Even though Collazo had a family history of breast cancer on both sides, doctors assured her that the lump was nothing to worry about. The cancer left undetected only kept growing and spreading.

"My cyst had grown. It went from the size of a berry to almost the size of a tennis ball. It was diagnosed at stage 3 and if it would’ve been caught in the beginning, it would’ve been a stage 0 or stage 1," Collazo said.

Time is of the essence when it comes to any type of cancer and early detection is the key to survival. That’s why dermatologist Dr. Reena Jogi recognizes how crucial it is for her practice at Village Dermatology to resume melanoma screenings for all patients.

"In low-risk individuals waiting for a few weeks for a screening, it's probably okay to put off for a little. Even with people who have had skin cancer in the past, I think delaying a few weeks is okay; delaying months is probably not," Dr. Jogi said.

For the last month, Dr. Jogi and her team of three other physicians have been relying on FaceTime and Zoom to conduct appointments. It’s a tough balance in a practice that requires seeing and touching a patient in order to properly diagnose.

"If somebody had a lump or a rapidly growing tumor, we wouldn't want anyone to wait or make the decision themselves at home that wasn't urgent. Really, it takes experience to look at something and see something and to know if it's truly life-threatening or not," Dr. Jogi said. 
The Texas Medical Board released a new guideline Tuesday for physicians. 
TMB says non-urgent, elective procedures and surgeries can proceed with a physician's approval as long as it does not deplete hospital capacity or PPE. 
Officials want to allocate at least 25% of hospital capacity and preserve masks and ventilators for those dealing directly with COVID-19 patients on the front lines. Elective procedures and surgeries must also not rely on PPE from any public sources -- local, state or federal. 
Ultimately, the TMB says it will be up to individual doctors to decide if they want to proceed with any non-urgent, elective surgery or procedure.

Dr. Jogi says her office will likely continue to hold off on cosmetic procedures but will be reviewing each case individually to decide.