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Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales, revealed she has cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. Andy Cheung/Getty Image
  • Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales, revealed she has cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy.
  • The March 22 announcement follows Catherine’s two-month absence from the public eye to recover from major abdominal surgery for a condition that was previously believed to be noncancerous.
  • Catherine, who is married to William, the Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne, has asked for privacy during her recovery.
  • Catherine is the latest British royal to reveal she has cancer. King Charles III and former royal family member Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, have recently shared their cancer diagnoses.

Catherine, Princess of Wales, shared on March 22 that she’d been diagnosed with cancer and is currently in the early stages of treatment, undergoing preventive chemotherapy. The type of cancer was not specified.

The announcement was shared in a video message two months after Catherine had stepped away from official public appearances to recover from major abdominal surgery, which Kensington Palace said at the time had been noncancerous.

Catherine spent 13 days in a London hospital following the procedure and paused public duties during her recovery.

However, Catherine explained that tests performed after the January 16 surgery revealed a cancer diagnosis.

“This, of course, came as a huge shock, and William and I have been doing everything we can to process and manage this privately for the sake of our young family,” said Catherine, 42, who is married to William, the Prince of Wales and the heir to the British crown.

“As you can imagine, this has taken time. It has taken me time to recover from major surgery in order to start my treatment. It has been an incredibly tough couple of months for our entire family, but I’ve had a fantastic medical team who have taken great care of me, for which I am so grateful,” Catherine continued.

Details about Catherine’s cancer diagnosis are sparse, but here’s what we know, based on her announcement.

Catherine underwent a “major abdominal surgery” in January for a condition that was initially believed to be noncancerous.

The surgery was successful, but tests afterward indicated that cancer had been present. It is unclear if the cancer was detected early. On the advice of her medical team, she is now in the early stages of preventive chemotherapy.

“The information regarding GI surgery is a very generalized statement. The abdominal cavity contains not only the GI tract but also urinary tract and the female reproductive organs. Abdominal surgery may range from the colon, rectum, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, small bowel, bladder, kidneys, ovaries, and more,” Dr. Cathy Eng, co-director of GI Oncology and Director of the Young Adult Cancers Program at Vanderbilt University, told Healthline.

“I want to reiterate we cannot speculate on the type of cancer she may have since we do not have all the pertinent information,” Eng said.

Dr. Steven Lee-Kong, chief of Colorectal Surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center, told Healthline that based on present information, all he was willing to say was that based on the abdominal surgery, the cancer may have occurred in one of the abdominal organs.

The most common cancers that affect women are breast, lung, colorectal, endometrium, and melanoma of the skin, according to a recent study from the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Of the most common forms of cancer, colorectal cancer is statistically the most likely to be diagnosed in the abdomen, said Eng. However, she cautions against making generalizations about individuals based solely on trends.

“We do not recommend stereotyping individuals based upon their appearance alone. Cancer can impact anybody at any age. I think this is a warning sign to all young individuals to pay attention to their bodies,” she said.

Catherine’s surgery was deemed a success, which means that the cancer was likely removed.

The Princess of Wales said she is now receiving preventive chemotherapy, also known as adjuvant chemotherapy, meaning chemotherapy that follows a primary therapy, like surgery.

When administered after surgery that removes a cancer, it is used to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence rather than prevent cancer development. If Catherine is receiving chemotherapy, she may be at risk for cancer recurrence, Lee-Kong explained.

“The role of adjuvant chemotherapy is to provide basically additional treatment postoperatively to improve the disease-free survival, overall survival, and to reduce the risk of recurrent disease in the future,” Eng noted.

Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, meaning it works throughout the entire body. Chemotherapy agents use powerful cytotoxic chemicals that destroy rapidly growing cancer cells by preventing them from dividing and growing.

However, these powerful drugs also affect healthy cells in the body, which can result in many serious side effects. Common side effects of chemotherapy include:

  • hair loss
  • fatigue
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • infection

“I cannot overemphasize the importance of any patient receiving adjuvant chemotherapy (or chemotherapy in general) to communicate well with their oncology team to ensure that they are tolerating any side effects they may be experiencing and to utilize the supportive medications provided to patients to reduce these side effects,” Eng said.

Different forms of cancer are on the rise in young adults between the ages of 18 and 49.

According to the ACS’s 2024 Cancer Statistics, young adults were the only age group with an increase in cancer incidence between 1995 and 2020.

Cancer incidence has steadily climbed for young males and females by about 1% annually over this time period.

Some of the most common forms of cancer in young adults include:

“I think this is a warning sign to all young individuals to pay attention to their bodies, and if a symptom does not resolve within less than two weeks, you should bring it to the attention of your physician,” said Eng.

Early detection is key for treating cancer. However, for young adults, detection and treatment are more likely to be detected and diagnosed at a later stage due to members of the group being less likely to have insurance and undergo regular screenings.

“We know that the sooner cancers are diagnosed and the earlier the stage is at diagnosis, the better patients do overall,” Lee-Kong told Healthline. “Early detection, enhanced by age-appropriate screening, leads to improved survival and better overall outcomes.”

Dr. Adam L. Booth, assistant professor of pathology and immunology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and member of the College of American Pathologists, agreed.

“Early detection through screening is our strongest defense against cancer progression because it is the only way to prevent or identify cancer before the disease advances, symptoms develop, and prognosis declines,” Booth told Healthline.

“For example, many patients undergoing a screening colonoscopy that identifies an early cancer have no symptoms. Thus, screening is the only way their cancer is caught early, which gives them a better prognosis overall.”

Catherine’s cancer diagnosis is the latest in a series of recent royal family cancer announcements.

King Charles III is currently undergoing treatment for unspecified cancer that was discovered during a procedure for a benign prostate enlargement.

Former royal family member Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, is recovering from skin cancer. Ferguson’s melanoma was detected early during reconstructive surgery from a mastectomy following a breast cancer diagnosis.

“At this time, I am also thinking of all those whose lives have been affected by cancer. For everyone facing this disease, in whatever form, please do not lose faith or hope,” Catherine said in the video.

As a wife and mother, Catherine’s cancer diagnosis will weigh heavily on her family. Catherine currently has three children with Prince William: Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, 8, and Prince Louis, 5.

In a statement to Healthline, the American Cancer Society underscored the importance of how information about cancer is communicated to children.

“We know the challenge of explaining a cancer diagnosis to any family member, especially children. Depending on their age and maturity level, children will experience the news of a diagnosis differently. For example, children between the ages of 7 and 12 may have a hard time telling an adult about any distress they are experiencing and might be afraid that what they say might upset loved ones,” said Dr. Karen Knudsen, CEO of the American Cancer Society.

The ACS offers strategies to families dealing with cancer on how to speak to children and recommends clear communication in terms of the type of cancer, expected changes in the individual with cancer, and what treatment will look like.

However, they urge parents to “find a balance between too much information and too little.” Parents are also encouraged to let children ask questions and express their feelings.

“We commend Princess Catherine for her openness and vulnerability in sharing her recent diagnosis. The American Cancer Society recognizes the importance of respecting the privacy of the Prince and Princess of Wales and their family as they navigate this challenging time. We wish them all the best as Princess Catherine continues to focus on her treatment and recovery,” Knudsen said.

Catherine, Princess of Wales, also known as Kate Middleton, shared in a video message that she has cancer.

While the type of cancer was not specified, Catherine revealed it was detected during testing following a recent major abdominal surgery.

Catherine is now undergoing adjuvant chemotherapy to prevent the cancer from returning.

Catherine’s cancer diagnosis follows recent cancer announcements made by King Charles and the Duchess of York.

The royal family, as well as world leaders, have urged the public to respect the privacy of Catherine and her family during this time.