No mat­ter how healthy you are, dis­ease can strike at any time. But as long as you know what to look out for, you can keep the worst ill­nesses at bay

Men's Fitness - - Contents - Words Do­minic Bliss

Ill­ness tends to creep up on you. Iden­tify the signs so you can catch the worst of­fend­ers and stop sick­ness in its tracks

Ever heard of cy­ber­chon­dria? It’s a form of hypochon­dria that’s fu­elled by try­ing to di­ag­nose your own med­i­cal symptoms on­line. And it’s a grow­ing prob­lem. Med­i­cal stud­ies have found that 40% of peo­ple who con­sult the in­ter­net rather than their GP end up anx­ious rather than re­as­sured.

So, you have a dull ache in your balls, and you search on­line. Five min­utes later you’re con­vinced you’ve got tes­tic­u­lar can­cer. Or you won­der why yes­ter­day’s headache hasn’t gone and, be­fore you know it, you’re read­ing about brain tu­mours in a panic.

But while you shouldn’t con­vince your­self you’ve got a ter­mi­nal con­di­tion based on in­ter­net-de­rived ‘facts’, you should al­ways be vig­i­lant. Ex­am­ine your moles, don’t ig­nore per­sis­tent pain, and – per­haps most im­por­tantly – check your tes­ti­cles for lumps.

Eye off the ball

Ex-foot­baller John Hart­son, a for­mer striker with Ar­se­nal, West Ham, Celtic and Wales, was about as far from vig­i­lant as you can be. Although ex­pert with a foot­ball, he was any­thing but when it came to his own balls, ig­nor­ing the lumps he’d found un­til it was al­most too late.

‘It wasn’t un­til I started suf­fer­ing hor­ren­dous headaches that I went to see my GP and men­tioned the lumps,’ says Hart­son, who was 34 at the time. ‘Within days I found out the lumps were tes­tic­u­lar can­cer and the headaches were the re­sult of a tu­mour. I’d waited so long to get checked that the can­cer had spread to my lungs and brain and I was di­ag­nosed with stage 4 can­cer. Had I got the lumps checked when I’d first dis­cov­ered them, I could have spared my­self months of op­er­a­tions and gru­elling treat­ments.’

Hart­son – now clear of can­cer – later set up the John Hart­son Foun­da­tion, a tes­tic­u­lar can­cer char­ity. ‘I was ig­no­rant about the symptoms of tes­tic­u­lar can­cer and the im­por­tance of get­ting treat­ment early. I had no idea of the dan­ger I was putting my­self in.’

in a Heart Beat

An­other for­mer player, the cur­rent West Ham manager Sam Al­lardyce, was far more cau­tious when he spot­ted early warn­ing signs. In his case it was chest pain.

‘I was sun­bathing on the beach in Qatar,’ says Al­lardyce. ‘I was re­laxed but I had this dis­com­fort in my chest. It felt a bit like indigestion but didn’t go away. When I got back I went to see the club doc­tor. He lis­tened to my chest and didn’t like the sound of it, so he sent me for more tests.’

And it was just as well he did so, since the spe­cial­ist dis­cov­ered an artery block­age. ‘ The spe­cial­ist was pleased that I saw him straight away be­cause it stopped me hav­ing a heart attack. It could’ve hap­pened within weeks or months, but it was cer­tainly go­ing to hap­pen if I hadn’t ad­dressed the prob­lem.’

In Novem­ber 2009 Al­lardyce un­der­went heart surgery. ‘Men think we’re in­de­struc­tible but we’re not, and you shouldn’t ig­nore cer­tain warn­ings from your body,’ he says. ‘Pre­ven­tion is bet­ter than cure, and if some­thing feels un­usual in any way, you must get it checked out.’

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