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.

Hunter also 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 the cancer.

The world number four is due to meet Nottingham's Michael Holt in his opening match at the Crucible Theatre on April 17.

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As a result of today's news he has withdrawn from his scheduled appearance in tomorrow's BetFred Premier League game against Hong Kong's Marco Fu at  the Corn Exchange, Ipswich. It is believed Hunter will undergo further tests on Friday.

Seven-times world champion Stephen Hendry passed on his support and best wishes to Hunter in his battle with cancer.

Hendry said: "This is terrible news and the kind of news that puts things in perspective. It's the kind of thing that happens to other people, not one of your own.

"I'd just like to say on behalf of myself and all the other players and staff within the sport that we wish Paul a speedy and full recovery."