Breast Health

Breast Cancer is Personal for an SMG Surgeon

Breast Cancer is Personal for an SMG Surgeon

Jason Radecke, MD, MS, Steward Bariatric and General Surgery, comes from a long line of manly men.  He describes the men in his family as “big Viking German tough guys” from West Virginia who root for the Ohio State Buckeye football team. For his part, Radecke, a high school wrestling standout, can be found most autumn weekends cheering on the fighting Tigers of Clemson University, where he earned degrees in biochemistry, immunology and molecular medicine.

Radecke, a bariatric and general surgeon who performs lumpectomies and mastectomies at Sebastian River Medical Center, knows that tough guys don’t typically worry about breast cancer, except as a potential health threat to the women in their lives.

So, when Radecke’s uncle got diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, it sent the family into shock.

“He fought for 12 years in multiple rounds of chemotherapy before succumbing to it just one year ago,” said Radecke, whose brother, father and male cousin also tested positive for the genetic defect that can contribute to breast cancer. His brother and cousin underwent bilateral mastectomies, or the surgical removal of both breasts, as a preventative measure.

Because of his family history, the issue of breast cancer is intensely personal, and not exclusively associated with all things pink and girly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one out of every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the United States is found in a man.

“I did a five-year general surgery residency in which I did hundreds of breast cases,” said Radecke, whose work also includes fixing hernias, removing gall bladders and colon malignancies. “The fact that breast cancer runs in my family makes it very personal to me. Because of my passion for this, I do a great deal of this kind of work.”

Radecke works tirelessly to make sure his patients of both genders are aware of the need to patrol their health and reduce their risk of getting breast cancer. For women, that means encouraging them to perform monthly self-exams, get annual clinical exams as well as annual screening mammograms. Three-dimensional mammography, offered at Sebastian River Medical Center, provides the latest technology for early detection of breast cancer. A study in JAMA Oncology notes that cancer detection rates are higher in people who return for 3D imaging over time. This means that 3D imaging potentially catches more signs of cancer than 2D imaging.

“Since women’s movements across the country have shed more light on screening mammograms, remarkable things have happened,” he said. “More women are getting screened, testing modalities are improving, reconstruction surgery is mandated to be paid for by the insurance companies. We are catching more and more breast cancers in early stages rather than late stages and more survivors are benefiting from this.”

For men and women, that means reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.

“Obesity is related to a seven- to eight-fold increase in breast cancer,” said Radecke, who offers several types of weight-loss surgery at his practice. “It is related to a significant increase in all cancers, but breast cancer more significantly because excess adipose tissue gives off estrogen, which feeds many breast cancer tumors.”

Radecke also works to raise awareness of breast cancer on the Treasure Coast. He has so many pink T-shirts in his closet from participating in fundraising events that he has lost count.

In an Oct. 2 video devoted to his uncle’s memory and to breast cancer awareness, Radecke let his wife, brother and three kids take turns shaving his head with an electric razor while he wore a hot pink T-shirt.

“If I can get one person to get a mammogram, it’s worth it,” Radecke said.

His two sons, Coleson, 9, and Camden, 7, each wore matching T-shirts that said: “Boys Wear Pink, Too.”

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