Kate Middleton’s preventative chemo explained: How cancer-fighting drugs with brutal side effects will aim to stop Princess of Wales’ disease returning

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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The Princess of Wales today revealed she is undergoing preventative chemotherapy after her shock cancer diagnosis.

Chemotherapy uses powerful drugs to attack tumours and is typically given to treat cancer directly or shrink a tumour in preparation for surgery.

As in Kate Middleton ‘s case, chemo can also be used as a preventive option in the hope of stopping cancer coming back.

In a statement today, Kate, 42, said she has been undergoing this preventative type of chemotherapy. She began the treatment in late February.

At the time, the reason for Kate’s surgery was understood to be non-cancerous.

Today she said subsequent tests had found cancer was present.

Kate was then advised to undergo a course of preventative chemo and described herself as being in the ‘early stages’ of that treatment.

Preventative chemotherapy, also called adjuvant chemotherapy, aims to stop cancer coming back once the main tumour has been removed from the body.

Cancer can spread to other parts of the body, a process called metastasis, where tiny cancerous cells break off the main tumour and take root elsewhere.

These ‘new’ cancers can be hard to detect so medics specialising in cancer treatment, called oncologists, often advise patients to undergo preventative chemotherapy in a bid to eliminate any remaining traces of the disease.

Preventative chemotherapy is most often delivered as an IV drip or tablets where they are then carried throughout the body by the bloodstream.

Depending on the type, chemotherapy can be administered in either a hospital or at a patient’s home.

There are over 100 types of chemotherapy drugs, but they all work in a similar way and circulate through the blood.

The drugs are cytotoxic, meaning they are toxic to cells and in particular those that divide rapidly.

As cancer cells divide more than healthy cells, they are more affected by chemo, hence why it is used as a treatment for the disease.

However, other types of fast-growing cells, such as hair, bone marrow, skin and the lining of the digestive system are also damaged in the process.

This leads to some of chemotherapy’s famed side effects, such hair loss or thinning, fatigue, bruising and bleeding more easily, increased risk of infection, diarrhoea or constipation, nausea or vomiting, rashes and more.

Often a patient undergoing chemotherapy also take other medication designed to help mitigate or combat some of these symptoms.

The specific dosage and type of chemotherapy used varies depending on the type of cancer.

The Princess of Wales with her children in her Mother’s Day portrait, which now has added significance given her diagnosis

The Prince and Princess of Wales were seen together last week as William went to the The Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey

The Prince and Princess of Wales were seen together last week as William went to the The Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey

The Princess of Wales said her family (pictured together on December 25) 'need some time, space and privacy while I complete my treatment'

The Princess of Wales said her family (pictured together on December 25) ‘need some time, space and privacy while I complete my treatment’

Catherine, Princess of Wales attends the opening of Evelina London's new children's day surgery unit on December 5

Catherine, Princess of Wales attends the opening of Evelina London’s new children’s day surgery unit on December 5

The effectiveness of preventative chemotherapy varies considerably from patient-to-patient.

Factors that impact it success include the specific type of cancer, when it was originally treated, the age of the patient and if they have any other health conditions.

The specific type of cancer Kate has has not been revealed.

Approximately 375,000 cases of cancer are spotted in the UK each year, with 167,000 patients also dying from the disease per annum.

Survival rates vary significantly by type of cancer. Overall 50 per cent of cancer patients will be alive 10-years after their diagnosis.

Kate’s cancer battle in her own words: The Princess of Wales’ emotional video statement in full 

I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you, personally, for all the wonderful messages of support and for your understanding whilst I have been recovering from surgery.

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.

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.

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.

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.

As I have said to them; I am well and getting stronger every day by focusing on the things that will help me heal; in my mind, body and spirits.

Having William by my side is a great source of comfort and reassurance too. As is the love, support and kindness that has been shown by so many of you. It means so much to us both.

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

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. You are not alone.


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