MANY people are surprised to learn that men can develop breast cancer.

This recognition was all too real for 60-year-old Woodburn father-of-four, Gregory Moss, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in June, roughly a year after he felt a suspicious lump on his right breast.

"There isn't high statistics (one in 288 men get breast cancer), but it's real," Mr Moss said from his hospital bed.

"I've got procedures with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and oestrogen treatment."

"For women since they have more fatty tissue it's more insulated, but for men the blood flow can flow more quickly to the lymph nodes.

"Speaking to my friends they said 'what? your in a hospital with breast cancer?' - just shock, like it was for me."

Mr Moss first realised something was amiss when he felt pain after lifting a heavy object which rubbed against his breast before discovering a two and a half centimetre lump.

"I just kept working. I never said or thought anything about it because I didn't feel any pain until something hard pressed against it.

"That was the first notion, but that was over 12 months ago," he said.

LIsmore Base Hospital patient Gregory Moss is undergoing treatment for breast cancer and wants to raise awareness for the condition that can be suffered by men as well.
LIsmore Base Hospital patient Gregory Moss is undergoing treatment for breast cancer and wants to raise awareness for the condition that can be suffered by men as well. Marc Stapelberg

However it took three visits to a doctor and several tests before his diagnosis.

Mr Moss had surgery this week to remove the cancerous cells and surrounding lymph nodes.

"Breast cancer for men is real and men do die from it," he said.

"I suggest that at 50 years of age they get along to the mammogram bus and insist on a test.

"It's a top secret thing that men don't talk about, and even friends have run in the other direction."

"It's important to check yourself."

For women, it remains the most common cancer in NSW and the second most common cause of cancer death, with one in eight women being diagnosed in their lifetime.

Health authorities are urging women aged 50 - 74 years across Northern NSW to be vigilant with their regular mammograms, after recent figures revealing 22,000 local women have not participated in the national breast cancer screening program in the last two years.

Only 57.2% of eligible women in Northern NSW have had their mammogram in the last two years.

In Northern NSW, around 240 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and around 45 women die of the disease.

Karen Hennings, McGrath Breast Care Nurse for Lismore and surrounding areas, established a support group for people experiencing breast cancer, so her patients don't have to feel alone during this experience.

"Having access to good support and information empowers people and it can really reduce anxiety in patients," Ms Hennings said.

"I can't make the cancer go away, but I'll do everything I can to make that experience easier."

In Karen's monthly support group she hosts women in all stages of their breast cancer experience.

"The most fun one we've done recently is laughter yoga - it was a great way of getting everyone out of their shells, and really relaxing.

"But we do all sorts of holistic activities - we've had presentations from lymphedema therapists, exercise experts and even the local dragon boat club.

"This group has something that will benefit anyone," she said.

Women from Ballina, Lismore and the surrounding areas are encouraged to reach out to Karen for support on, no doctor's referral needed.

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