Three breast cancer survivors are exposing their chests and posing like models from classical Rubens and Rembrandt paintings for the Breast Cancer Foundation's awareness campaign.

Today marks the start of October's Breast Cancer Month, and the foundation's message is "knowledge beats breast cancer".

Shona Kelway, 54, from Pukekohe, Anete Smith, 51, from Auckland's North Shore and Hamilton mother Kelly McDiarmid, 37, have all undergone life-saving mastectomies combined with chemotherapy and drugs.

"(They) have received the best treatment modern medicine can offer ... these 21st century women are looking forward to long and healthy lives," said foundation chief executive Evangelia Henderson.


"Sadly though, breast cancer still strikes women at a devastating rate, jumping to more than 3300 diagnoses a year in the most recent statistics."

The foundation wants to remind women to "know your normal" and be aware of any changes, while celebrating the improvement in medical care in the 21st century.

"When breast cancer is found early, survival rates are good," Henderson said.

"However, we're still losing more than 600 Kiwis to breast cancer every year."

Dutch masters Rubens and Rembrandt painted their models as they saw them, and the painters unknowingly captured lumps and marks that is now recognised as signs of breast cancer.

Poses in the paintings, including Rubens' Samson and Delilah, have been recreated for the foundation's campaign.

28 Sep, 2017 4:27pm
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Each year, about 25 men are also diagnosed with breast cancer.

About nine in 10 will likely to survive past 10 years when their cancer is detected by mammogram, but drops to 75 per cent if found through a lump.