Former Rochdale footballer Joe Thompson reveals he has been diagnosed with cancer for the third time

Former footballer Joe Thompson has revealed he has been diagnosed with cancer for the third time.

The ex-Rochdale midfielder was first diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 2013 and recovered - before the cancer returned four years later.

The 35-year-old went on to recover a second time, returning to the game in 2017 and scoring a vital goal that kept his team in League One.

But after "pushing his body to the limit" Mr Thompson was forced to hang up his boots in 2019, having only been able to play one game all season.

He made 225 professional appearances during his career, mostly at Rochdale, but also had stints at Tranmere Rovers, Carlisle United and Manchester United's youth academy.

Now he has revealed he has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of the same cancer, which has reached stage four and has spread to his lungs.

Announcing his latest diagnosis on X, he wrote alongside a picture of his wife and two daughters: "It's true I have cancer for the third time. But we've walked through darkness as a family before and we will do it again!"

The first tumour he discovered was in his neck, which he found while giving his baby daughter a bath.

Then, four years later, another growth was found next to his heart. At the time he was playing football regularly and said he was "totally caught off-guard" by the discovery.

He said: "I was playing football, flying, feeling fit and it popped up on a scan."

Mr Thompson said talking about his diagnosis had been helping him to deal with the news.

Speaking to MUTV, he said: "I know that the support is here from the club. My family are imperative in my life and they are constantly helping me at the moment.

"I feel like once I have voiced it and got it off my chest, I don't feel as suffocated as I felt. Obviously, bringing it to the football audience I am hoping that the support will be there as it has been not once, but twice before.

"Raising awareness is key. We know that cancer is on the rise across the world, but for me this time, because it is the third time, I really want to find the root cause of why."

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According to Cancer Research UK, nearly one in two people in the UK get cancer during their lifetime.

Mr Thompson, who was in the Manchester United Academy in the late 1990s and early 2000s, said regular checks increase the chances of spotting the disease at an early stage.

He added: "I have always said that having those checks and doing them yourself, having a feel around, is important."

Mr Thompson said his latest cancer had "gotten progressively worse" but there had been improvements in recent weeks.

He added: "It's got on to my lungs so my breathing is affected, my sleep is affected. My speech. But it has gotten better over the last three or four weeks.

"I couldn't have done this interview with you three or four weeks ago. Lots of coughing, lots of short breaths and I would get out of breath talking."