South East Wales

John Hartson Caerphilly schools testicular cancer campaign

John Hartson
John Hartson was diagnosed with cancer in 2009

Ex-footballer John Hartson is leading a campaign to educate 15-year-old boys in south Wales about testicular cancer.

The retired Arsenal and Celtic striker has described his battle to recover from the condition on a DVD, to be used as part of a schools teaching pack.

The campaign, developed with health officials, is aimed at pupils in Caerphilly county, but it is hoped it will be picked up further afield.

Hartson said not being embarrassed about seeking medical advice was key.

The former Wales international launched the campaign on Tuesday morning at Blackwood Comprehensive School.

The teaching pack has been developed by pupils there in conjunction with the John Hartson Foundation, Velindre NHS Trust and Caerphilly council.

Hartson, 37, underwent emergency surgery in 2009 after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and his brain.

On the DVD he tells the story of his recovery , while Dr Jim Barber, a consultant clinical oncologist from Velindre NHS Trust, discusses the warning signs and symptoms to look out for.

Speaking about the Grab Your Life By The Balls campaign, Hartson told BBC Radio Wales: "I had lumps on my testicles, which I'd left for six or seven years and it so nearly cost me my life because it was testicular cancer that spread up to my lungs and then onto my brain.

"It's the awareness. It's not so much being afraid or not wanting to go to the doctors, it's the knowing that lumps on your testicles are a massive tell-tale sign of testicular cancer.

"Now, they could be cysts, they could be other things but it's important you go and get checked. It's imperative you do it right away."

Hartson said he hoped his own story would help raise awareness of the disease.

"There was very little in the way of awareness raising for important issues such as this when I was at school," he said.

'Could save lives'

"I truly believe that education from an early age of the signs and symptoms to look out for, together with the knowledge to act when men detect an abnormality, and understand that there is nothing to be fearful or embarrassed about in seeking medical advice, is key to tackling this illness.

"This awareness raising campaign is really important in communicating the 'don't be embarrassed' message to the younger generation."

Rhianon Passmore of Caerphilly council paid tribute to Hartson's involvement in the campaign, which she said, "could save lives".

Andrea Hague, director of Velindre Cancer Centre, Whitchurch said if the campaign could save one life it would be a success.

The DVD and teaching pack will be used in school PSE lessons, said Caerphilly council.

The campaign was aimed at schools in the county borough, the council said, but it hoped it would be picked up further afield.

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