Tony Iommi, the lead guitarist of Black Sabbath, is battling lymphoma, a type of cancer that originates in the immune system, but says he "remains upbeat" and is working with his doctors on a treatment plan.
The news comes almost two months after the heavy metal group, headed by singer Ozzy Osbourne, announced plans to produce its first album in 33 years and embark on a world tour later this year.
"With the news that Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi has been diagnosed with the early stages of lymphoma, his bandmates would like everyone to send positive vibes to the guitarist at this time," said a recent statement on both his and the group's websites. "Iommi is currently working with his doctors to establish the best treatment plan - the 'IRON MAN' of Rock & Roll remains upbeat and determined to make a full and successful recovery."
The 1970 single "Iron Man" was one of Black Sabbath's biggest hits.
"This comes as Black Sabbath-- Ozzy Osbourne (vocals), Tony Iommi (guitar), Geezer Butler (bass) and Bill Ward (drums) - are writing and recording their first album in 33 years in Los Angeles (still set for release this fall) with producer Rick Rubin," the statement said. "They will now go to the UK to continue to work with Tony. Further information will be released as it becomes available."
Iommi, 63, has not commented in person. The band's tour is set to begin in Russia in May. There has been no news about any cancellations.
Music website Billboard.com said Black Sabbath was supposed to perform at the 2012 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival but was forced to cancel its gig due to Iommi's lymphoma diagnosis. The group and organizers have not commented about the report. The festival's lineup was recently announced and includes Radiohead, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg (see a full list).
It is also unclear what kind of lymphoma Iommi is battling. If diagnosed in its early stages, the average five-year survival rate is about 82 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Ronnie James Dio, who took over as Black Sabbath's lead singer after Osbourne was fired from the band in 1979. died of stomach cancer in May 2010.
Iommi has suffered a medical trauma before. In the late 1960s, while working at a sheet metal factory, a machine sliced off the tips of the fingers on his right hand. He learned to play guitar again by using thimble-like devices.
The four original Black Sabbath members - Iommi, Osbourne and Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward and bassist Terry "Geezer" Butler - have reunited sporadically for concerts from 1985 to 2005. The group was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2006.
The four appeared in person at the iconic Whiskey A Go-Go club in Los Angeles on November 11, to announce plans for a new album and 2012 tour.
"We've written about seven or eight songs .. and they're really good," Osbourne said at the press conference. "I'm not just saying that. I'm like, 'Woah!'"
"Tony's come up with like, absolutely incredible music," Butler added. "It really is back to the old Sabbath style and sound."
The band members also made the announcement through a video message posted on the band's website with the title, "Reunited: 33 years in the making."
Iommi said reuniting with his former bandmates was like "putting on an old glove," adding: "It's fantastic."