What Does Kate Middleton's 'Preventive Chemotherapy' Actually Mean? Doctor Breaks It Down For Us

For months, the public has voiced concerns over Kate Middleton's health following a surgical procedure at the start of the year and her unusual absence from the 2024 BAFTA Awards, which Prince William attended solo (via ABC News). In a public video message released Friday, March 22, the Princess of Wales shared details regarding the current state of her health, announcing that she has been diagnosed with cancer, The Independent reported. She did not specify what kind of cancer diagnosis she had received.

In the video, Middleton states that at the time she had undergone major abdominal surgery in January, her condition was not thought to be cancerous. Laboratory testing after the fact then revealed evidence of cancer, and the mother of three explained that she has now begun preventive chemotherapy treatment. In her message, Middleton explained that following the diagnosis, she and her husband have been taking time to tend to this private family matter. "[I]t 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," she said. 

Middleton will now focus on completing her chemotherapy treatment

Concluding the video, Middleton expressed her gratitude for the widespread support she's received and requested the public's understanding of their need for privacy at this time as she prioritizes the completion of her chemotherapy treatment before looking forward to returning to work. In signing off, the Princess of Wales voiced her support for those fighting cancer as well as their families, encouraging those affected not to lose hope.

Immediately following the announcement, members of the royal family shared messages of love and support, including King Charles, who too is diagnosed with cancer, and who commended Middleton for her strength. "[I am] so proud of Catherine for her courage in speaking as she did," he stated, as reported via The Independent. Manchester Evening News notes that Prince Harry and Meghan also released a statement, saying, "We wish health and healing for Kate and the family, and hope they are able to do so privately and in peace." Formal responses from the White House and other world leaders soon followed, wishing Middleton a full recovery (via Forbes). 

What is preventative chemotherapy? Our expert weighs in

For those who are unfamiliar with preventative chemotherapy, we asked Eleonora Teplinsky, MD, Head of Breast and Gynecologic Medical Oncology at Valley Health System, Paramus, NJ, and Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, to break it down for us in an exclusive interview for Health Digest. "Preventive chemotherapy in this case is being given after cancer surgery to reduce the risk of recurrence," she stated, adding that the treatment is also known by another name. "Another term for this that we use more often is adjuvant chemotherapy," she said. 

Dr. Teplinsky goes on to explain the different purposes that cancer surgery and adjuvant chemotherapy serve. "Even though a cancer surgery may remove all the visible cancer, there may be microscopic disease that is not seen," she noted. "Chemotherapy after surgery is given in some situations (depending on type and stage of the cancer) to get rid of that potential microscopic disease and reduce risk of recurrence." 

Middleton stated in her video message that, during the time of her abdominal surgery, her medical team did not think cancer was present. It wasn't until afterward that cancer was found. Although Dr. Teplinksky cannot weigh in on the exact nature of Middleton's case as official details are sparse, she explains, "All specimens removed at the time of any surgery are always sent to pathology for testing and occasionally, a cancer diagnosis is made even when it was not known previously."