What is preventative chemotherapy and why is Kate Middleton undergoing treatment?

By Staff 6 Min Read

The Princess of Wales has confirmed she is now undergoing preventative chemotherapy – but the palace have confirmed she is in high spirits after understanding her diagnosis

Princess Kate has announced her cancer diagnosis in a heartfelt video message to the public.

The visbly emotional royal revealed the news came as a “huge shock” but she is “getting stronger every day” as she focuses on her ongoing recovery.

Kate underwent major abdominal surgery in January and has been recovering in private since. After the operation, doctors found that cancer was present during follow-up tests.

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

What is preventative chemotherapy?

When cancer is diagnosed, usually the patient will take on a course of chemotherapy treatment, where medicine is used to kill cancer cells. The chemotherapy stop the cells from reproducing, which prevents them from growing and spreading in the body. While Kate has not disclosed what type of cancer she has, she did tell the public that she is undergoing preventative chemotherapy.

At the time of Kate’s abdominal surgery, it was thought that the condition was non-cancerous and no tests had confirmed the presence of cancer. However, post-operative tests then found that cancer had been present and she is now on a “recovery pathway”.

Preventative chemotherapy, also called adjuvant chemotherapy, aims to stop cancer from coming back once the main tumour has been removed from the body. Cancer can spread through the body through a process called ‘metastasis’. This is where the tiny cancer cells break off from the main tumour and these can be harder to detect.

Medics specialising in cancer treatment, officially known as oncologists, will often advise patients to undergo preventative chemotherapy in a bid to eliminate any remaining traces of the disease. This is done most often through an IV drip or tablets, carried through the body via the bloodstream. This can be done in either the patient’s home or hospital. The preventative treatment aims to ensure the cancer does not come back.

Cancer cells divide more than healthy cells but they are more affected by the chemotherapy, which is why it’s used as a treatment. But fast-growing healthy cells such as hair, skin, bone marrow and lining of the digestive system can also be damaged from the chemotherapy.

According to the NHS, chemotherapy may be used if cancer has spread or there’s a risk it will. The NHS website explains chemotherapy can be used to “try to cure the cancer completely (curative chemotherapy). Make other treatments more effective – for example, it can be combined with radiotherapy (chemoradiation) or used before surgery (neo-adjuvant chemotherapy).” It can also be used to “reduce the risk of the cancer coming back after radiotherapy or surgery (adjuvant chemotherapy).”

Kensington Palace has confirmed that the Princess is in good spirits and focused on her recovery. Kate will return to official duties when she is cleared to do so by her medical team.

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