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Kate Middleton reveals cancer diagnosis: What we know so far | Health News

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Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales, has disclosed that she has cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy.

Here is what is known so far:

What did Kate say?

On Friday afternoon, Kate released a video update regarding her health. The message, recorded on Wednesday, was broadcast two days later.

It came after weeks of speculation about her whereabouts and health since she was hospitalised in January.

“In January, I underwent major abdominal surgery in London and at the time, it was thought that my condition was non-cancerous,” Kate said.

“The surgery was successful. However, tests after the operation found cancer had been present. My medical team therefore advised that I should undergo a course of preventative chemotherapy and I am now in the early stages of that treatment.”

She explained her diagnosis was a “huge shock”.

“As you can imagine, this has taken time. It has taken me time to recover from major surgery in order to start my treatment. But, most importantly, it has taken us time to explain everything to George, Charlotte and Louis in a way that is appropriate for them, and to reassure them that I am going to be OK,” Kate added, referring to her three children with Prince William, the eldest son of King Charles and heir to the British throne.

Prince George is 10 years old; Princess Charlotte, 8; and Prince Louis, 5.

Kate didn’t reveal what type of cancer she had been diagnosed with, while she also asked for space and privacy.

“We hope that you will understand that, as a family, we now need some time, space and privacy while I complete my treatment,” she explained.

“My work has always brought me a deep sense of joy and I look forward to being back when I am able, but for now I must focus on making a full recovery.”

From left: Prince George, Prince Louis and Princess Charlotte leave Buckingham Palace
From left: Prince George, Prince Louis and Princess Charlotte leave Buckingham Palace [File: Alastair Grant/AP]

The cancer diagnosis is the latest in a series of health challenges that the royal family has had to battle.

King Charles was diagnosed with cancer in February, less than 18 months after succeeding his mother Queen Elizabeth following her death in September 2022. He has since stepped back from public engagements. Buckingham Palace has not said at what stage his cancer was found.

On January 21, Prince Andrew’s ex-wife, Sarah, Duchess of York, said she had malignant melanoma, a form of skin cancer.

What kind of surgery did Kate have on January 16?

Kate, 42, had what was described as abdominal surgery on January 16. The news wasn’t announced until the next day when Kensington Palace revealed that the princess was recovering from a planned operation.

At the time, officials said her condition wasn’t cancerous but did not specify what kind of surgery she had, saying only that it was successful. They also explained she was unlikely to return to public duties until after Easter, which falls this year on March 31.

Kate was released from the London Clinic, a private hospital located near Regent’s Park in the heart of the UK capital, on January 29. Following her discharge, she went back to Windsor, which is situated to the west of London, to further her recuperation.

Charles was discharged from the same hospital on the same day as Kate.

What happened next after leaving the hospital on January 29?

Despite the palace explaining the timeline of the princess’s recovery, Kate’s health and location triggered huge speculation. Kate made her first public appearance on March 4 when she was spotted in Windsor. She was seated in the front passenger seat of a car driven by her mother, Carole Middleton.

What about the Mother’s Day picture on March 10?

The speculation continued to grow and amid a social media frenzy, Kate and William published an official photograph of her and her three children on Mother’s Day – celebrated on March 10 in the UK.

But instead of ending the speculation, it fuelled it further, after news agencies retracted it because it appeared to have been manipulated. A day later Kate admitted that she had edited the photograph, and apologised.

She was later photographed alongside her husband in a car departing Windsor Castle.

“First of all, why in this current climate do you think you can release a manipulated image and get away with it,” Afua Hagan, journalist and royal commentator, told Al Jazeera.

“But what really baffles me is Kate didn’t do this alone. She has a team around her,” Hagan said.

“There is also an issue with the public relations and communications team, which has badly let you down. Your team has thrown you under the bus, Princess of Wales, and you are taking the blame,” she added.

Is it unusual to find cancer after surgery?

While it’s rare to find cancer after surgery for a noncancerous problem, it does happen in about 4 percent of such surgeries, said Yuman Fong, a surgeon at the City of Hope cancer centre in Southern California.

“That 4 percent figure represents someone who’s going to the operating room for what is thought to be benign disease such as a procedure to remove the gallbladder or ovarian cysts,” Fong said.

What kind of treatment is Kate having?

The palace statement said no details would be provided about her cancer or her treatment, other than that she started it in late February.

After successful surgery, chemotherapy is often used to help kill any stray cancer cells and to prevent the cancer from coming back. Treatments have evolved, and when chemotherapy is used now, it’s sometimes for shorter periods or lower doses than it once was.

“Fatigue, nausea, tingling in the hands and feet, and sometimes hair loss are side effects of chemotherapy,” said Monica Avila, a doctor at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. “But there are medications for improving these side effects. And cold caps that cool the scalp can prevent hair loss,” Avila said.

“A patient can take anywhere from a few weeks to a month or two to recover from those effects,” Avila added. Numbness and tingling can take longer to disappear, she added.

Is it unusual to find cancer in someone young?

Cancer is rare in young adults. But in developed countries, rates of some cancers are rising among younger adults. Kate is 42.

“We hate it when young people get cancer, but at the same time, they are the ones that recover best,” Fong said.

According to Macmillan Cancer Support, “about 393,000 people in the UK are given the news that they have cancer” every year.  According to the centre, in the UK on average someone is diagnosed with cancer at least every 90 seconds.

And about 167,000 people die from cancer every year in the UK, an average of “460 people every day”.

What have been the reactions after Kate’s announcement?

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, who have been estranged from William and Kate since their move to California in 2020, wished the princess well.

“We wish health and healing for Kate and the family, and hope they are able to do so privately and in peace,” they said in a statement.

Kate’s brother James Middleton also offered his support, with a photo of the two of them when they were children.

King Charles said he was very proud of Kate for speaking about the cancer.

Charles is “so proud of Catherine for her courage in speaking as she did” and has “remained in the closest contact with his beloved daughter-in-law throughout the past weeks,” after they spent time in hospital together, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said.

Charles and his wife Camilla “will continue to offer their love and support to the whole family through this difficult time,” the spokesperson added.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Kate “has the love and support of the whole country”.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also wished Kate a speedy recovery.

In a post on X, US President Joe Biden said he and First Lady Jill Biden “join millions around the world in praying for your full recovery, Princess Kate”.

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