Page last updated at 18:34 GMT, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 19:34 UK

Hartson's cancer warning to men

John Hartson
John Hartson said he wants to return to football once his recovery is complete

Former football star John Hartson has warned men who find a lump in their testicles to act.

The retired Wales, Arsenal and Celtic striker, 34, said he took a "liberty" with his health when he did not act after finding a cancerous lump.

He had emergency surgery after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer which had spread to his brain and his lungs.

He is now leading a charity campaign to raise awareness of men's health issues and admitted: "I'd left it too late."

The Swansea-born player, who was capped 51 times for his country, said: "I checked and there was a little lump there and I'd ignored it." Hartson has undergone 67 chemotherapy sessions as part of his continuing cancer care after the diagnosis in July.

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales, he said he did not go to a doctor after finding a lump and only sought medical help after "mind-blowing" headaches which left him curled up in pain.

He said the headaches probably saved his life, as his condition and the complications that followed put him in intensive care for five weeks.

John Hartson
If I had gone two or three years ago, I wouldn't have gone through all the rigmarole of everything that I did
John Hartson

He said: "A lot of people [who] have testicular cancer, they go in on the Friday, they have the testicle out and they have some scans and bits and bobs and that's basically it for them.

"But with myself, I had to have two brain operations. I'd left the lump get too severe. I caught pneumonia on the ward, so I went through it a little bit.

"My advice would be to guys out there is to get it checked out.

"If I had gone two or three years ago, I wouldn't have gone through all the rigmarole of everything that I did.

"I left it too late. I'm not going to preach to people because people will do their own thing at the end of day.

"But if I have any input into what [guys] do, then I would advise anybody to go and check.

"If you leave it too late. like I did, then it could be quite fatal for you."

He said the response from people, including supporters of rival teams Cardiff City and Glasgow Rangers, had been "brilliant".

He is set to become a father for the fourth time. It will be his second child with his partner, Sarah McManus, who he plans to marry in Wales next year.

He said wants to return to football as a coach once his recovery is complete as he is "getting a bit fed up staring at the four walls of my house".

Grow a moustache

In the meantime, he is concentrating on charity work, including the Movember (a play with words on moustache and November) campaign, in which men are urged to grow a moustache during the month to raise awareness of men's health issues, including prostate cancer.

The campaign will see a number of Scottish Premier League players growing a moustache during the month.

Hartson joined Arsenal as a teenager from Luton in January 1995 and, in two seasons at Highbury, made 62 appearances, scoring 16 goals.

The player left Arsenal for West Ham United in February 1997 and later played for Wimbledon, Coventry City, Celtic, West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City.

He said his illness had caused his weight to plummet from 19 stones (120kg) to the weight he had been at Luton.

He said his Celtic manager Gordon Strachan recently joked: "You're four years too late, big man. You'd have been in my first team every week if you were this light now."

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