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Prior to Dr. Cynthia Morris, there was no gynecologist practicing at the Fayette County Memorial Hospital for six years. When Dr. Morris first came to check out the hospital, the administration said they didn’t even have plans to include a gynecologist in their strategic plan.
Socio-economics and the availability of care is challenging everywhere, said Dr. Morris, especially in rural Fayette County.
“This is the only reason I’m here,” Dr. Morris said. She left her gynecology practice in Cuyahoga Falls to open the Women’s Center at the Fayette County Memorial Hospital.
“When I came, they really were not confident that there was a need for me. The administration was really not sure that I would be busy. So why pay someone if they’re going to come into the hospital and not be busy?” said Dr. Morris. When she first began practicing medicine in a rural county in 1995 she worked in both a private practice and a free clinic. She was booked from day one.
“Totally booked,” said Dr. Morris. “And that never stopped.”
In 2001 she started a solo practice for women in Summit County, three blocks from her home, and was fully booked everyday. Back then she commuted to the Fayette County Memorial Hospital, until she closed her private practice in 2015 to commit full-time to serving women at the Fayette County Memorial Hospital.
Eventually, the administration at the hospital changed. Today, Dr. Morris is the medical director for the Women’s Wellness Center, a newly-renovated premier medical care center inside the hospital that provides compassionate health services for women.
Here, Dr. Morris said she routinely sees women who have not had regular pap smears.
“Pap smears are the way we diagnose cervical cancer, but more importantly, they’re the way that we diagnose pre-cancerous changes and HPV. And that’s what predicts the woman who is going to get into trouble with HPV and changes in her cervix, and if we’re not doing that, those are the women who are at high risk. Even here, even now, I’m still seeing women who have not had a pap smear in over 10 years, and I’ve been here four years now,” Dr. Morris said.
Dr. Morris cited a news article in the New York Times, “Wider racial gap found in cervical cancer deaths,” which she said she found to be very interesting. The article explains that the death rate for cervical cancer is much higher than previously thought. This is because women who had had complete hysterectomies (in most cases, the cervix is removed), and who were no longer at risk for developing cervical cancer, had been included in the statistics. When those women were taken out of the statistics, the rate of death from cervical cancer was much higher.
And what the researchers found was that for white women, the death rate for cervical cancer was 4.7 per 100,000 women. Previously, it was 3.2. The death rate for black women is higher: 10.1 per 100,000 women. In the previous statistics, it was 5.7.
“The real question is, why do we have such a rate anyway when we have a way of detecting it, and thereby preventing it?” Dr. Morris said.
Dr. Morris uses the latest technology in the Women’s Wellness Center to provide women with comfortable cervical screenings and treatment in order to prevent cervical cancer through early detection.
Pap smears, a gynecological screening which can detect pre-cancerous cellular changes in the cervix, have changed dramatically since they began in the 1950s, said Dr. Morris. When she first began giving the exam, there was a smear on a glass slide. Then it was a stick with a wire brush on the end. Today the exams don’t use a glass slide or a wire brush; a long rubber-like bristle is used during the exam and from there it goes straight into a liquid solution.
The important thing, said Dr. Morris, is to go for regular cervical screenings beginning at age 21 and then continuing every three years until age 30. Between the ages of 30 and 65, women should be seen every five years.
“Very few women get cervical cancer in the United States because we do screenings,” said Dr. Morris. “In third-world countries, it’s much higher because they don’t get screenings.”
Reach Ashley at (740) 313-0355 or on Twitter @ashbunton