Isle Of Man / Ellan Vannin

Breast cancer survivor in warning to men

Christopher Barr
Image caption Christopher Barr was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Christopher Barr feels passionately about highlighting the condition to men.

About 300 men in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer each year compared with more than 45,000 cases for women.

The majority of male breast cancer cases are in men aged between 60 to 70.

Mr Barr, from the Isle of Man, discovered a lump in his breast in July 2006 and a series of hospital tests followed.

The results showed a large and rapidly growing cancerous tumour which meant an immediate mastectomy of the right breast.

"I was in total shock. At the time I didn't even know men could get breast cancer," he said.

"I remember sitting in the hospital waiting room wondering if I was going to die and I thought that I couldn't die because I was only 51."

A 'pink world'

Mr Barr's surgery was followed by six months of chemotherapy.

"You can have very low patches during chemotherapy when you feel absolutely terrible but you have to remind yourself that it is for the greater good," Mr Barr said.

"I think a lot of men who have breast cancer are very reluctant to come forward because it is a very pink world. It is perceived as a female world and men tend to shy away from that - I feel it is very important that male breast cancer is highlighted."

After contacting a breast cancer support group in the Isle of Man, Mr Barr became part of a network which he has since found invaluable.

"Ten years ago I could never have imagined myself being a member of a breast cancer group but it has given me a whole new perspective, and a whole new social life. It's always funny when we go out together because there is me and about 35 other ladies - a lot of men would be very envious.

Image caption Christopher Barr now takes part in many events to support local breast cancer charities

"The ladies were more than welcoming - I think they thought it quite novel to have a man as one of their number."

After his mastectomy, Mr Barr found it difficult to come to terms with the disfigurement of losing his right breast.

His doctor recommended regular exercise to aid recovery, but Mr Barr felt self-conscious about going to the gym or swimming pool.

"I thought everybody would be looking at me but it is like everything in this world, people don't really pay much attention. Psychologically though, I did find this a bit difficult."

Now an active member of the island's breast cancer support group, Mr Barr hopes his experience will help other men be aware that breast cancer knows no gender divide.

"Men need to check their breasts just like women. I would urge everybody to go for regular check-ups just to make sure that everything is OK.

"If you have the slightest worry get it attended to because we all have to be proactive about our health."

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