PAUL Caine’s friends didn’t believe him when he said he had breast cancer — they thought it was a disease which only affected women.

But Mr Caine is one of just 350 men who are diagnosed with the potentially deadly disease every year in the UK.

This is less than one per cent of the 48,000 women annually diagnosed with breast cancer.

The 50-year-old found a lump in his left breast when he was in the shower last May.

He presumed it was a cyst and went to see his GP.

Concerned, Mr Caine’s doctor referred him to the breast unit at the Royal Bolton Hospital and three weeks later he was given the devastating news that he had breast cancer.

He underwent surgery to remove the cancerous growth and started on a course of gruelling chemotherapy.

His radiotherapy treatment will start on January 30.

Mr Caine, from Great Lever, who cares for his elderly mother, said: “I was having a shower when I felt a lump. I thought it was a cyst as I had never heard of breast cancer in men.

“I was just in shock when I got the diagnosis. Having cancer gives you a different perspective on life. It makes you think about life and your health more. I never thought about cancer before.”

Mr Caine, who has a 16-year-old daughter, Grace Birtwhistle, had to undergo exactly the same diagnosis procedures as women.

He had a mammogram, breast ultrasound and a biopsy to diagnose the cancer.

Mr Caine is now urging other men to make sure they check themselves and be aware of the risk of breast cancer.

He said: “The majority of men I have talked to think as I did, that it’s only women that get breast cancer.

“A lot of people I have told have said ‘no, men can’t get breast cancer’, and I say I can assure you they can because I have got it.”

Risk factors for breast cancer in men are not fully understood but it is thought the chances increase with age, if there is a family history of breast cancer, if men are exposed to high levels of radiation, are overweight or drink heavily over a sustained period.

Symptoms can include changes in the breast shape or size, a nipple turning in, bleeding or discharge from the nipple, a swelling or lump in the armpit or an ulcer on the skin of the breast.

Mr Caine has been pleased with the treatment he has received at the Royal Bolton Hospital and The Christie in Manchester.

He now plans to raise funds for The Christie at a race night at The Balmoral Hotel in Bradshawgate on Thursday, January 31.

Mr Caine said: “I haven’t been well during the chemotherapy. It’s not been a cup of tea, but that has finished now. You have got to be optimistic.”

Geoff Thompson, landlord at The Balmoral, added: “When I heard Paul had breast cancer I gave the same reaction as other men — I thought he was taking the mickey. We want to raise as much money as possible and raise awareness of breast cancer amongst men.”

There are just one or two cases of breast cancer in men in Bolton each year.

Dr Stephen Liversedge, an experienced Bolton doctor, said: “Breast cancer in men is very uncommon.

“In Bolton, if there are only one or two men diagnosed a year, then most doctors will probably never see a case in their professional lifetime, but it’s something we are aware can occur.

“On the whole, a lump in a man’s breast is very apparent. Women are 100 times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than men.”

The race night at The Balmoral is for adults only and it will start from 5pm. People are able to sponsor horses and jockeys to boost funds for the charity. Prizes including Bolton Wanderers tickets will be on offer.

There is no entry fee.