Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov is suffering from acute leukaemia
Acute leukaemia is an aggressive cancer of the white blood cells



15:25 GMT, 30 March 2012

Stillian Petrov has captained Aston Villa since 2009

Cherished player: Stillian Petrov has captained Aston Villa since 2009

Football has been rocked by a third shock illness to a player within just two weeks after Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov was diagnosed with acute leukaemia.

His condition was diagnosed yesterday after the 32-year-old developed a fever following a match against Arsenal on Saturday.

Leukaemia is a cancer of the white
blood cells, which we need to fight off infections.

Symptoms can include pale skin, tiredness, breathlessness,
and having repeated infections over a short space of time.

Acute leukaemia means that the condition is progressing rapidly and aggressively and requires immediate treatment.

It's a rare condition with just 2,400 new cases diagnosed each year.

A statement from the football club said: 'We expect to learn more about Stiliyan's
situation in due course and we have moved quickly to support him and his

'During this time we ask that Stiliyan's privacy is placed ahead of all
inquiries and trust that we will share information as we receive it.

'Stiliyan is cherished by many and he will get from Villa every ounce of love
and support that we have to help bring this to a positive conclusion.'

The news comes just 12 days after Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest while playing against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane and two days after Barcelona player Eric Abidal underwent a liver transplant.

Yesterday, team mate Darren Bent sent his support via his Twitter feed.

He said: 'Really sad news to hear about our captain Stan Petrov. hopefully he'll be back fighting fit soon. Thoughts are with him and his family. KTF.'

Stiliyan has been married to Paulina for 11 years. They have a nine-year-old son called Stiliyan Junior and another five-year-old son called Christian.

Stiliyan Petrov with his son back in 2004

Family man: Stiliyan Petrov with his son back in 2004

Tottenham's Jermaine Jenas, who was at Villa on loan this season, also wrote on the social networking site.

He said: 'Just saw the news about Stan petrov one of the nicest guys in football! Thoughts with him and his lovely family.'

The Bulgarian international and midfielder has made 29 appearances for the club this season but reported feeling unwell following the 3-0 defeat to Arsenal last weekend.

He was born in the Bulgarian city of Montana and started his career at CSKA Sofia in his home country.

In 1999 he sealed a dream 2million move to the SPL with John Barnes's Celtic.

He went on to make over 200 appearances for the Glasgow club before following manager Martin O'Neill to the Midlands in 2006 for 6.5 million.

How does acute leukaemia develop

All of our blood cells are produced by bone marrow, which is found inside the bones. Usually the bone marrow produces stem cells which are allowed to mature into 'adult' blood cells.

In cases of acute leukaemia, the affected bone marrow
begins to release a large number of immature white blood cells that are
known as blast cells.

Stiliyan Petrov, 32, has been diagnosed with acute leukaemia

Stiliyan, 32, was diagnosed with acute leukaemia after suffering from a fever at the weekend

The immature white blood cells begin
to rapidly disrupt the normal balance of cells in the blood. This means
that the body does not have enough red blood cells or platelet cells.
This can cause symptoms of anaemia, such as tiredness, and increase the
risk of excessive bleeding.

Also, as the white blood cells are not properly formed they become less
effective at fighting bacteria and viruses, making you more vulnerable
to infection.

The condition is more common in men than women and while the causes are unknown smoking and radiation exposure are known risk factors.

Acute leukaemia is fatal if left untreated because the blood supply will not function properly.

Treatment usually includes chemotherapy and radiotherapy. A bone marrow transplant may also be used. Cure rates depend on the subtype of leukaemia it is and can vary from 20 to 70 per cent.

If a cure is not possible, patients are vulnerable to life-threatening infections or uncontrolled serious bleeding.

VIDEO: A healthy Stiliyan Petrov trains with Aston Villa (library)