Jermaine Defoe on invite list for Bradley Lowery's sixth birthday party

Football mascot Bradley Lowery will celebrate his sixth birthday at a big party with best friend Jermaine Defoe in attendance.

Bradley, terminally ill with the rare childhood cancer neuroblastoma, turns a year older on Wednesday with a bash planned for Friday.

But the little Sunderland fan remains in hospital at the moment ahead of his birthday celebrations.

Family reported that Bradley, whose cancer struggle has touched hearts around the world, has been in great pain recently.

However, he is feeling "a little better" and the pain is improving slowly during his stay hospital stay.

Bradley is a football nut. Credit: PA

England striker Defoe, whose team Sunderland were relegated from the Premier League, will at least have something to cheer when he attends Bradley's party in the youngster's home village of Blackhall, County Durham.

On Bradley's birthday itself, family members will be with him in hospital to hold a tea party.

On Facebook, his family updated thousands of well-wishers: "Bradley is super excited to turn six on Wednesday although he will be spending it in hospital and he is looking forward to his party on Friday."

Over the past months, Bradley has been a mascot for Sunderland and England several times, with 34-year-old Defoe often holding hands with or carrying the youngster.

The brave boy received 315,000 Christmas cards after an appeal went global - and this time, well-wishers are asked not to send a birthday card but to leave him a message online, and if they want, to donate the price of a card.