Princess Kate revealed she is undergoing treatment for a cancer diagnosis. What is preventive chemotherapy?

Catherine, Princess of Wales, announced on Friday that doctors discovered cancer in tests conducted after she underwent major abdominal surgery in January. The 42-year-old princess is currently undergoing preventative chemotherapy as recommended by her medical team, she said in a video. Here’s what that can mean.

What is preventive chemotherapy?

Preventive chemotherapyCommonly called “adjuvant chemotherapy,” is an early treatment used to reduce the risk of cancer coming back, even if all visible cancer has been removed in one operation, the study found Mayo Clinic.

When cancer is removed from the body, there is always the possibility that undetectable microscopic pieces of cancer may remain and grow. This treatment is intended to wipe out these tiny cells, said Dr. Jon LaPook, CBS News chief correspondent.

“The idea is that maybe there are a few tiny microscopic cells somewhere and we don’t want to give them a chance to grow,” LaPook explained. “We want to nail them down now, when they haven’t clumped together and grown into large masses.”

How is the treatment carried out?

There are many types of adjuvant therapies, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and more. The princess is receiving adjuvant chemotherapy, the most common form of cancer treatment, which typically lasts three months, LaPook said.

Treatment can take a variety of forms depending on the type of cancer, including pills, infusions, creams, injections, and more Mayo Clinic says. In the most common scenario, chemotherapy is given as an infusion into a vein, usually by inserting a tube with a needle into a vein in the arm.

What are the possible side effects?

Although this type of treatment is an attempt to prevent the growth and spread of cancer, it is still an intensive process that can have several potential side effects, including fatigue and an increased risk of infection, LaPook said.

According to the Mayo Clinic, other things are also possible Side effects include Nausea, hair loss, mouth sores, loss of appetite, easy bruising and bleeding. The clinic says many of these can be prevented or treated with treatments.

However, there are also some potential long-term side effects that may not appear until months or years after chemotherapy, such as damage to lung tissue, heart problems, infertility and the risk of a second cancer, the clinic explains.

It works?

The success of preventative chemotherapy really depends on the type of cancer, how aggressive it may be, and what stage the recipient is at, says the Mayo Clinic.

LaPook spoke with a cancer expert at NYU Langone Health who said the process can be difficult, but “people tend to recover 100% afterward, meaning they regain strength and return to normal functions.”

He added that the fact that this appeared to have been caught early on may be a good sign for the princess.

“Even though we’re shocked by it and she was shocked by it, overall it’s actually relatively encouraging that it was found so early,” La Pook said.

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