The actor, who played Central Perk manager Gunther in the hit sitcom, was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago, but it has now advanced.
James, 59, opened up about living with the disease during an interview with the Today show in the US on Monday.
“In September 2018, I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to my bones,” he said.
“I’ve been dealing with that diagnosis for almost the past three years.”
He continued: “It’s stage 4 (now). Late stage cancer. So eventually, you know, it’s gonna probably get me.”
Speaking about his original diagnosis that came during a routine check up, James said: “I was 56 years old at the time, and they screen for PSA, which is prostate-specific antigen. That came back at an extraordinarily high number… So I knew immediately when I went online and I saw the results of my blood test and blood work that there was obviously something quite wrong there.
‘Nearly immediately, my doctor called me and said ‘Hey, I need you to come in tomorrow because I suspect that you may have quite a serious problem with your prostate.’”
James initially underwent hormone therapy to help treat the disease and said he felt “fine” with no symptoms.
However, during the pandemic, his cancer mutated and he is now unable to walk after it further spread to his bones and spine.
“I missed going in for a test, which was not a good thing,” he said. “So the cancer decided to mutate at the time of the pandemic, and so it’s progressed.”
James also said his illness meant he was not able to appear in person during the recent Friends reunion, appearing via video call instead.
“It was my decision not to be a part of that physically and make an appearance on Zoom, basically, because I didn’t wanna bring a downer on it, you know? ... I didn’t want to be like, ‘Oh, and by the way, Gunther has cancer,’” he said.
James added that he wishes he’d gone to get checked out by his doctor earlier, and urged others to do the same.
“My goal this past year was to see my 59th birthday, he said. “My goal now is to help save at least one life.”