Kate Middleton Is Receiving Preventive Chemotherapy. What Is It?

By Pat Carragher - March 25, 2024

Kate, the Princess of Wales, revealed Friday that she has been diagnosed with cancer following abdominal surgery in January. In a video statement, Kate said doctors did not believe her condition was cancerous at the time of her surgery. It was during follow-up testing that her cancer was discovered. She did not specify which type of cancer she was diagnosed with.

“My medical team therefore advised that I should undergo a course of preventative chemotherapy, and I’m now in the early stages of that treatment,” Kate said in the video.

What is preventive chemotherapy?

According to Dr. Monica Avila, a gynecologic oncologist in the Gynecologic Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, chemotherapy is only given as a form of treatment for an already existing cancer diagnosis.

It’s not something healthy people can opt for in hopes of staving off disease.

“Chemotherapy is therapy,” Avila said. “Nothing about it is ‘preventive’ other than to prevent the cancer from coming back if a surgical debulking to remove all visible disease is successful.”

Avila says surgery can be used in combination with adjuvant treatment, which can include chemotherapy and/or radiation.  Some cancers can require chemotherapy, chemotherapy and radiation or radiation alone.

Headshot of Dr. Monica Avila, Gynecologic Oncology Program
Dr. Monica Avila, Gynecologic Oncology Program

“Chemotherapy is preventive in the sense that when a patient is getting treated after surgery with chemotherapy, the hope is that surgery leaves behind only few microscopic cells that chemotherapy can help clean up,” Avila said. “Therefore, the chemotherapy is administered as a means to prevent the cancer from coming back.”

The most common side effects of chemotherapy are fatigue, nausea and tingling in the hands and feet, according to Avila. Hair loss can also occur, but there are medications for improving these side effects and cold caps that cool the scalp can help prevent hair loss.

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

It wasn’t revealed how long Kate’s treatment would last. A statement provided by Kensington Palace said that will be up to her doctors. “The princess is now on a recovery pathway.”

Kate’s announcement comes a month after her father-in-law, King Charles, announced in February that he would be undergoing treatment for an undisclosed form of cancer that was discovered as he was being treated for an enlarged prostate. Queen Camilla said her husband is doing “extremely well under the circumstances.”

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