Doctor Explains To Us How Kate Middleton's Preventive Chemo Could Take Physical & Mental Toll

All of the mindless chatter and disturbing theories about Kate Middleton's supposed disappearance, aptly titled "Kate-Gate," came to a grinding halt on Friday, March 22, when the Princess of Wales spoke out in an emotional video via the couple's official Instagram account. She revealed she had cancer, prompting many of us to immediately retreat with egg on our faces and our tails between our legs. "In January, I underwent major abdominal surgery in London, and, at the time, it was thought that my condition was noncancerous. The surgery was successful," she explained. "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."

Alas, it wasn't long before the general public wanted to pick apart Kate's cancer announcement for her use of the words "preventative chemotherapy" as well. (DID WE LEARN NOTHING?!) So, what exactly is preventive chemotherapy? Is there such a thing? And perhaps most importantly, what effect will it have on the princess? Nicki Swift sat down with breast and gynecology medical oncologist Eleonora Teplinsky, MD, to get a better understanding. Sadly, according to Dr. Teplinsky, the chemotherapy could be both physically and mentally taxing on Kate.

Kate Middleton may be receiving chemotherapy to 'reduce the risk of recurrence'

Dr. Eleonora Teplinsky, head of the breast and gynecologic medical oncology department at Valley Health System and clinical assistant professor of medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, explained that preventive chemotherapy is also referred to as adjuvant chemotherapy. Either way, the terms simply refer to chemotherapy that "is given in certain cancer types to reduce the risk of recurrence." 

According to Dr. Teplinsky, we have no way of knowing exactly what kind of cancer Kate Middleton has. "There are many cancers that can be present in the abdominal area," she maintained. Due to that unknown, Dr. Teplinsky said that Kate's side effects could vary greatly depending upon the type of chemotherapy the princess receives and for how long. "While each chemotherapy agent has specific side effects, there are some general chemotherapy side effects which may include hair loss, fatigue, loss of appetite or taste, gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation, and low blood counts which create an immunosuppressed state," she advised. Dr. Teplinsky was adamant, however, that "navigating both the physical and mental health impacts of a cancer diagnosis and treatment can be very challenging both during active treatment and during the survivorship period."

Kate Middleton's role as a mother further complicates her treatment plan

During a separate interview with NBC News, Dr. Eleonora Teplinsky noted that while it's hard to discuss Kate Middleton's treatment plan given we do not know what type of cancer she has, "what we can say is that it seems like everything was removed." She added, "She is undergoing chemotherapy, to — as they have mentioned — to prevent, to reduce the risk of recurrence." According to Dr. Teplinsky, preventive chemotherapy or adjuvant chemotherapy "is a common practice for gynecologic or abdominal cancers."

Teplinsky opined that some of the biggest challenges Middleton might face while undergoing preventive chemotherapy aren't physical. "There are so many changes that come with a cancer diagnosis. Change in body image, change in femininity, everything feels different. The life that someone thought they were leading changes overnight. There's a lot of grief that comes with that," Dr. Teplinsky explained. "Adding being a young mother and having to not only manage her emotions but her children's concerns and her children's emotions ... I think the key is to stress that, as she has done, is she's going to be okay." 

Over the years, the world has watched Kate flourish in her role as a mother to her three children, all while under the glare of an intense and nearly impossible spotlight. Something tells us that this challenge will be no different. We give our best to the family and wish the princess a full recovery.