SNOOKER star Paul Hunter has been diagnosed with cancer.
The 26-year-old Yorkshireman, who still intends to compete at the Embassy World Championship starting in Sheffield on April 16, almost withdrew from last month's Irish Masters in Dublin because of stomach pains.
At the time he said: "The specialist wanted to know whether I'd ever had a stomach operation as he couldn't find one of my kidneys.
"But I hadn't, so goodness knows what it's all about."
Hunter, of Batley, trains at the Syngenta Sports Club in Leeds Road, Huddersfield.
The player took part in the recent China Open, reaching the quarter-finals before losing to 1997 world champion Ken Doherty.
He later revealed six cysts had been discovered on his colon and subsequent investigation revealed cancer.
The world number four is due to meet Nottingham's Michael Holt in his opening match at the Crucible Theatre on April 17.
Hunter, three times winner of the UK Masters, is one of the favourites for the game's greatest prize.
His manager Brandon Parker says the bandana wearing pin-up boy will have further hospital tests before and during the World Championship.
A statement issued by World Snooker, the game's governing body, said: "Paul will then undergo treatment to cure himself of this illness.
"He would like to reassure his fans and supporters that, as with his snooker career, he is tenacious and positive in his fight against the disease.
"Paul asks for privacy between now and the start of next season."
Three years ago Hunter underwent surgery before the 2002 world championship to remove a cyst from a testicle.
As a result of the medical news he withdrew from his scheduled appearance in the BetFred Premier League game against Hong Kong's Marco Fu at the Corn Exchange, Ipswich.
It is believed Hunter will undergo further tests tomorrow.