A man whose breast cancer was mistakenly diagnosed as bruising wants to raise awareness of how the disease affects men.

Greg Sargeaunt, 64, is sharing his story about his battle with breast cancer today, World Cancer Day, to share with men the importance of knowing the symptoms and looking after their health.

Mr Sargeaunt noticed a discolouration on his chest around his nipple nearly a year ago and went to the doctor to check it out. It was diagnosed as a haematoma or bruising thought to be caused from a gym injury.

The Papamoa man then went to the United Kingdom for three months and, while he was overseas, it grew worse.

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"When I came back, I got off the plane and went to the doctor the next day. They said it was probably cancer. It was a huge shock."

Mr Sargeaunt had a biopsy and scan, which revealed a 4cm malignant tumour. He needed a mammogram, which he called an "interesting" experience.

After his results came back positive, Mr Sargeaunt joined a local cancer support group and met with two other men suffering from breast cancer.

"All three of us men had originally been diagnosed with bruising or a haematoma. I wasn't aware it could happen to men until I got it, and these other guys weren't aware either."

Mr Sargeaunt needed a full mastectomy and had 27 lymph nodes on his right side removed, luckily only one of which was found to be cancerous, "although it was a big one".

"The good news is the operation was successful. They removed all the tumours. As far as they can see, all the tumours are gone."

Mr Sargeaunt is now halfway through his chemotherapy treatment. He had finished his AC chemotherapy, a common drug combination used to fight breast cancer, and now has seven chemotherapy treatments left.

He will then be having radiotherapy on his chest wall. Once that was completed, he would need hormone treatment for five years as "cancer has a liking for oestrogen".

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Greg Sargeaunt wants to raise awareness of male breast cancer. Photo/Andrew Warner
Greg Sargeaunt wants to raise awareness of male breast cancer. Photo/Andrew Warner

Mr Sargeaunt said he wanted to share his story to raise awareness with men that breast cancer could happen to them too.

"A lot of my friends didn't realise men could get breast cancer.

"If I had known then what I know now, I would have insisted on at least a scan. Men don't pay an awful amount of attention to their health. The important thing is to get that awareness message out to people, it can happen in men and these are the signs."

Mr Sargeaunt said the care he had received from Tauranga Hospital and the cancer centre was excellent.

Evangelia Henderson, chief executive of the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation, said
male breast cancer was more common in men aged 50-plus than cancer of the penis and meningitis.

About 25 men over 50 were diagnosed with breast cancer each year in New Zealand, compared with fewer than 20 diagnoses of cancer of the penis. Similarly, incidence of meningitis was much lower than male breast cancer for these men, typically fewer than 10 cases per year.

"World Cancer Day is a good time for men to lift their thoughts to higher things, to be aware of the signs of breast cancer and to be as vigilant about this aspect of their health as they would be about locking their cars or having a safe fishing trip," Ms Henderson said.

Symptoms to look out for are:
- A lump or area of thickened tissue, usually painless and situated close to the nipple.
- Skin changes such as puckering or dimpling, a change in colour or ulceration.
- Nipple changes eg a newly indrawn nipple or itchy, scaly skin on the nipple.
- Fluid discharge from the nipple, either clear or bloodstained.
- Unusual breast pain or tenderness.
- Painless lump in the armpit.
- NZBCF