You only have one colon. And you have to take care of it.
There is a group of medical students from the University of Kansas School of Medicine who is spending the summer doing a colorectal cancer prevention assessment.
One of these students is former Marion County resident Amanda (Kleiber) Baxa.
She will be starting her second year in medical school.
As part of a summer rotation, Baxa has been researching patients through Dr. Randal Claassen’s medical practice in Hillsboro.
Baxa’s task is to identify patients who meet criteria for colonoscopies.
“My goal is to inform patients of how to prevent colon cancer and encourage them to be screened,” she said. “People aren’t as willing to talk about colon cancer or colonoscopy as other forms of cancers.”
When it is determined that it is in the best interest of a patient to be screened for colon cancer, the patient is instructed to visit the Web site, www.healthylivingkansas.org, to complete a cancer prevention assessment.
Sixty days after the inquiry, researchers from the program will contact the patient to see if the patient has scheduled or received a colonoscopy. Contact again is made 120 days later.
The program is through KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo. Baxa will be in the Hillsboro clinic until the end of the month.
For more information about the study or colorectal cancer, call Baxa at (620) 947-2396.
The eldest of three children, Baxa grew up in the Ramona/Tampa area, graduating from Centre High School in 2004.
She earned an undergraduate degree from Kansas State University before being accepted at KU.
“I became interested in medicine when my brother had a rare eye condition,” Baxa said.
She saw how his doctor, Linda Lawrence of Salina, helped people, including her younger brother, Nick.
“It was inspiring,” Baxa said. “I knew then that I wanted to be a doctor.”
Her mother, Peggy Kleiber, was a licensed practical nurse and an emergency medical technician.
“I grew up hearing stories and being around doctors,” Baxa said.
Family practice in a rural setting is her dream. She knows the road to becoming a doctor is a long and difficult one. But Baxa is determined to finish.
She still needs to complete three years of medical school, followed by three years of residency.
“I would love to return to Marion County after I complete school,” Baxa said.
More interested in being a general physician than a specialist, Baxa likes the full spectrum of medicine.
“We need specialists but I think I’d get bored with that,” she said.
Baxa continued she wants to provide continuity of care — from birth through adulthood.
“It’s important to have a doctor-patient relationship,” she said. “A specialist may see a patient only one time. I want a long-term relationship with my patients.”
Medical school is somewhat easier and more interesting than her undergraduate studies, Baxa said, because she knows this is what she will be doing the rest of her life.
Her parents and brother moved to Salina a few years ago where her father, Lynn, is employed at the post office.
Baxa’s younger sister, Andrea Klenda, lives with her family in Pilsen. Brother Nick will be a junior in high school, returning to Centre this year.
Baxa lives in Kansas City with her husband, Tim, who builds and sells fences. They met at KSU when Tim was earning a master’s degree in ruminant nutrition.
About colon cancer
Symptoms of colon cancer are numerous and nonspecific. They can include fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, change in bowel habits, narrow stools, diarrhea or constipation, red or dark blood in stool, weight loss, abdominal pain, cramps, or bloating.
Sometimes cancer can be present for several years before symptoms develop.
The colon is the part of the digestive system where waste material is stored. The rectum is the end of the colon. Together they form a long, muscular tube — the large intestine, also called the large bowel. Tumors of the colon and rectum are growths from the inner wall of the large intestine.
When colon cancer is suspected, either a lower GI series (barium enema X-ray) or colonoscopy is performed to confirm the diagnosis and localize the tumor.
Colonoscopy is a procedure when a doctor inserts a long, flexible viewing tube into the rectum to inspect the inside of the colon. Colonoscopy is considered more accurate than barium enema X-rays, especially in detecting small polyps. If colon polyps are found, usually they are removed through the colonoscope and sent to a pathologist for analysis.
The diagnostic test only has to be completed once every 10 years.
“The most important step is to have the screening and colonoscopy,” Baxa said. “Early detection does save lives.”