M People star Heather Small was terrified her singing career was over after realising she needed surgery to repair a recurring throat problem last year (12).

The 48-year-old British singer feared the worst after doctors told her she would need to go under the knife to fix a haemorrhaged vocal cord, and she spent six weeks in worried silence as she recovered from the operation.

She tells Britain's Daily Star newspaper, "I was terrified. To face losing your voice when it's how you make your living makes you feel so vulnerable. I reverted back to being a little girl with my surgeon, pleading, 'Is everything going to be all right?'"

Small, who is preparing to embark on a reunion tour with her band, is now urging younger stars to take better care of their voices.

She explains, "I'd advise any young singer to look after their voice properly - you owe it to the fans. They've paid to hear you sing the best you can. That was easier for me because I've never drank as I don't like the taste of alcohol. Not being able to speak was the killer as I'm a big talker.

"I wrote everything down and got through so much notepaper... Throat massages and acupuncture helped too, and since my operation I sing high notes easier than before."