An early diagnosis could be "crucial" for the recovery of footballer Stiliyan Petrov as he undergoes treatment for acute leukaemia, an expert has said.
The 32-year-old Aston Villa captain was diagnosed with the disease after developing a fever following last Saturday's defeat to Arsenal.
Professor Chris Bunce, research director at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, said the condition is often not identified in younger patients because it is so rare.
About 200 people in their 30s are diagnosed with the disease in the UK each year, the charity said.
Prof Bunce said: "Thirty-two is certainly a young age to develop acute leukaemia. It is much more common in people in their 60s.
"Because it is so rare at that age, it is sometimes not diagnosed quickly enough.
"But being in a health awareness environment such as professional football, with the benefit of a medical team, could be crucial for Stiliyan. The earlier treatment is started, the better chances of survival.
"He will be able to take more aggressive therapy because he is younger. And being fit should mean he will respond better to the treatment.
"At the moment we don't know what type of acute leukaemia he has. Different sub-types have different prognoses than others.
"Very young patients often make a full recovery. However, the survival rate for people in their 60s is appalling. For intermediate patients there is a 40-45% survival rate.
"There is every possibility Stiliyan could return to be a very fit and healthy human being. He's certainly young enough to make a full recovery."
On average 2,500 adults are diagnosed with acute leukaemia in the UK each year, with about 1,800 over the age of 60, according to Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.
The most common type in adults is acute myeloid leukaemia, the charity added.
Professor Bunce said Petrov's treatment would depend on the type of acute leukaemia diagnosed, although he would most likely undergo chemotherapy. Severe cases require a bone marrow transplant, he added.