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Everything we know about the Princess of Wales's cancer diagnosis, treatment and return to royal duties

The Princess of Wales underwent surgery January and began treatment for cancer in February

Catherine, Princess of Wales arrives at the Shaping Us National Symposium at the Design Museum on November 15, 2023 in London, England. The symposium event, hosted by The Princess of Wales and The  Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood, brings together leaders and specialists to consider key foundational skills for early childhood which can result in healthy adult lives.
Danielle Stacey
Online Royal CorrespondentLondon
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The Princess of Wales has announced that she has been diagnosed with cancer. Kensington Palace released a statement on Friday explaining the news regarding Kate, 42, and that she began preventative chemotherapy in late February.

A personal statement from the Princess of Wales explained her major surgery in January was thought at the time as non-cancerous. However, subsequent tests following the procedure found cancer had been present.

"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," said Kate in part.

"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."

The Princess of Wales© BBC Studios
The Princess of Wales

The Princess of Wales underwent unrelated abdominal surgery in January and has been recuperating at the family's home in Windsor since. The royal's diagnosis came as a result of cancer being detected by medical professionals following the planned, unrelated procedure.  

When the news of her surgery was first announced by Kensington Palace on 17 January, it was stated that Kate, 42, is "unlikely to return to public duties after Easter". It's thought that Kate will now extend her recovery beyond the Easter break and will not be present at the Easter Sunday Service in Windsor.

Speculation surrounding the royal's health recently reached fever pitch when her husband, Prince William, pulled out of attending a thanksgiving service for the late King Constantine in Windsor last minute due to a "personal matter". It has since been confirmed that his wife's diagnosis was the reason for William's last-minute cancellation. 

Kensington Palace brushed off social media speculation with a spokesperson for Kate, saying: "We were very clear from the outset that the Princess of Wales was out until after Easter and Kensington Palace would only be providing updates when something was significant."

Since then, conspiracy theories on social media have gone rampant. Last week, Kensington Palace was forced to brush off speculation surrounding her health. A spokesperson for Kate said: "We were very clear from the outset that the Princess of Wales was out until after Easter and Kensington Palace would only be providing updates when something was significant."

On Mother's Day, Princess Kate marked the special occasion by sharing a photograph with her three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis. However, eagled-eyed watchers were quick to notice that edits to the image had been made.

Kate Middleton mint green dress© Getty
Princess Kate, pictured in 2022, has been keeping a low profile since her surgery

After photo agencies pulled the photo, the Princess confessed to making edits when questions were raised over whether the image had been digitally altered. In a message shared on social media on Monday morning, Princess Kate stated: "Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing.

"I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused. I hope everyone celebrating had a very happy Mother's Day. C." 

The same day, the Princess of Wales was pictured in the car with her husband, the Prince of Wales, as they left Windsor in a black Land Rover. 

Here's everything we know about Kate's surgery, recovery, subsequent cancer diagnosis and when she's likely to return to public duties.

WATCH: The Princess of Wales announces 'shock' cancer diagnosis

What has happened to Princess Kate?

Princess Kate has been diagnosed with cancer. The type of cancer has not been disclosed as the senior members of the royal family endeavour to keep her personal health and medical records private.

Speaking in a lengthy statement, Princess Kate explained that she is undergoing preventative chemotherapy treatment which began in late February. She is in the early stages of her treatment and will continue her recovery in private.

The royal said at the end of her statement: "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."

Kate Middleton wearing blue coat on Christmas Day© Getty
Kate was last seen publicly on Christmas Day

Why did Princess Kate have surgery? 

The reasons for Princess Kate's major abdominal surgery which she underwent in January have not been disclosed. It was thought at the time that the procedure was non-cancerous, however, subsequent tests found that cancer was present.

On 17 January, it was confirmed by Kensington Palace that Kate had been admitted to the private London Clinic for planned abdominal surgery.

The palace released a lengthy statement, which added: "The surgery was successful and it is expected that she will remain in hospital for ten to fourteen days, before returning home to continue her recovery. Based on the current medical advice, she is unlikely to return to public duties until after Easter.

Police officers stand guard outside The London Clinic after Princess Kate underwent planned surgery© Getty
Kate was treated at the London Clinic

"The Princess of Wales appreciates the interest this statement will generate. She hopes that the public will understand her desire to maintain as much normality for her children as possible; and her wish that her personal medical information remains private.

"Kensington Palace will, therefore, only provide updates on Her Royal Highness’ progress when there is significant new information to share.

"The Princess of Wales wishes to apologise to all those concerned for the fact that she has to postpone her upcoming engagements. She looks forward to reinstating as many as possible, as soon as possible."

How long did Princess Kate stay in hospital?

Prince William, Prince of Wales seen leaving The London Clinic after visiting Catherine, Princess of Wales on January 18, 2024 in London,© Getty
William visiting Kate in hospital

The royal was discharged from the London Clinic on 29 January after a 13-day stay in hospital.

Kensington Palace shared in a statement: "The Princess of Wales has returned home to Windsor to continue her recovery from surgery. She is making good progress.

"The Prince and Princess wish to say a huge thank you to the entire team at The London Clinic, especially the dedicated nursing staff, for the care they have provided.

"The Wales family continues to be grateful for the well wishes they have received from around the world."

Kate spotted since surgery

The Princess was pictured for the first time since her surgery on 4 March, when TMZ published an unauthorised paparazzi shot of Kate sitting in the passenger seat of a car as her mother, Carole Middleton, drove the pair through Windsor. 

A sweet family photograph of the Princess with her children, taken by William, was shared on Mother's Day in the UK on 10 March, but the portrait sparked confusion as news agencies pulled the image after it was found to have been digitally altered. 

princess kate surrounded by children in windsor © The Prince of Wales
The photo of Kate and her children was released to mark Mother's Day

Kate later issued an apology via social media the day after, writing: "Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing. I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused. I hope everyone celebrating had a very happy Mother's Day. C."

The Princess was later pictured in a car with William as she travelled to London for a private appointment, while her husband attended the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey. 

On 19 March, The Sun and TMZ shared footage of the Prince and Princess leaving the Windsor Farm Shop, close to their home, Adelaide Cottage, with Kate seen dressed in sportswear and holding a large white shopping bag as she chatted to her husband. 

Hospital security breach 

Police officers stand guard outside The London Clinic after Princess Kate underwent planned surgery© Getty
The London Clinic where Kate was treated

A security breach is reported to have taken place at the London Clinic, where Kate was treated. According to The Mirror, up to three people could have been involved in the alleged accessing of the Princess of Wales’s private medical records after Kate was discharged from hospital on 29 January.

The London Clinic vowed that "all appropriate investigatory, regulatory and disciplinary steps will be taken" over any breach.

In a statement, chief executive of the London Clinic Al Russell said: "There is no place at our hospital for those who intentionally breach the trust of any of our patients or colleagues."

The news of the breach broke on 20 March - the day after William and Kate were spotted leaving the Windsor Farm Shop. 

When will Kate return to royal duties?

Kate with Prince Louis attends the Easter church service at St George's in Windsor© Getty
Kate at last year's Easter Sunday service

The Princess of Wales made her last public appearance as the royal family attended church on the Sandringham estate on Christmas Day.

Kensington Palace issued information outlining her return to royal duties when announcing Kate's diagnosis: "The Princess will return to official duties when she is cleared to do so by her medical team. She is in good spirits and is focused on making a full recovery."

Easter Sunday falls on 31 March when the royals traditionally attend church in Windsor. The Prince and Princess of Wales and their three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis will not be in attendance.

Timeline of Princess Kate's surgery and health updates

Close-up of Kate Middleton wearing a blazer© Getty
Kate went in for abdominal surgery on 17 January

25 December 2023 – Kate is last seen publicly on Christmas Day

9 January 2024 – Kate celebrates her 42nd birthday, with the King and Queen sharing a behind-the-scenes photo from the coronation to mark the day.

11 January 2024 – William returns to royal duties, meeting rugby heroes Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield at Headingley Stadium in Leeds.

17 January 2024 – Kensington Palace announces in a statement that Kate has undergone abdominal surgery at the London Clinic and that William has temporarily stepped back from royal duties to care for Kate and their children.

18 January 2024 – William visits Kate at the London Clinic.

26 January 2024 – King Charles visits Kate in hospital before undergoing treatment for an enlarged prostate.

29 January 2024 – Kate is discharged from hospital and returns home to Windsor to continue her recovery. King Charles also leaves the London Clinic on the same day after his treatment.

7 February 2024 – William resumes royal duties attending London's Air Ambulance Charity gala with Tom Cruise.

10 February 2024 – William and Kate spend February half-term with George, Charlotte and Louis at their Norfolk home, Anmer Hall. Kate's siblings are also pictured on holiday during the school holidays, with James Middleton and Alizee Thevenet flying to the Caribbean with baby Inigo, and Pippa Matthews and her family holidaying on the island of St Barts.

27 February 2024 – Kate said to be "doing well" as William pulls out of King Constantine memorial due to a "personal matter".

29 February 2024 – Kensington Palace addresses social media speculation, reiterating: "We were very clear from the outset that the Princess of Wales was out until after Easter."

10 March 2024 - A photograph of Kate with their three children at home in Windsor is released to mark Mother's Day and to thank the public for their "continued support".

11 March 2024 - Kate publicly apologises for the "confusion" around the photograph as she admitted  she "occasionally experiments with editing," after news agencies pulled the image amid claims it had been digitally altered. The Princess is then seen in a car with William as she's driven to a private appointment in London. 

19 March 2024 - Footage of William and Kate leaving the Windsor Farm Shop is shared by The Sun and TMZ in the first video sighting of the Princess since surgery.

22 March 2024 - Princess Kate confirms that she has been diagnosed with cancer. Kate, 42, is currently in the early stages of preventative chemotherapy, having started treatment in late February. Kensington Palace has not confirmed the type of cancer.

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