Kate Middleton's diagnosis: Chicago oncologist weighs in on her condition

Kate Middleton, the princess of Wales, announced Friday that she has been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy.

She shared her diagnosis in a recorded message and talked about her course of treatment following weeks of speculation.

The 42-year-old did not reveal what type of cancer she has, but said it was discovered during major abdominal surgery in January, which was successful.

How was Kate Middleton diagnosed? 

UI Health Oncologist Dr. Shika Jain joined us Friday to discuss how Middleton may have received her diagnosis and what it entails as she undergoes treatment. 

"My heart is with the royal family because I know this is a very difficult thing to navigate. Even in private and now they're doing it on such a public stage," Jain said. "So oftentimes what can happen in a case like this, someone would go in for a routine surgery to remove a cyst or something that looks benign… When it's removed and it's sent to the pathologist, they can review the cells and sometimes the cells come back as cancerous and that's what it sounds like may have happened in this situation."

What does Kate Middleton's treatment plan look like?

Middleton stated in the video that she is currently undergoing "preventative chemotherapy." 

Dr. Jain said when cancer is caught at an early stage, this type of chemotherapy is a viable treatment option.

"Sometimes, with certain cancers, when it's found at an early stage, you can undergo what's called ‘adjuvant chemotherapy,’ or receiving chemotherapy after the surgery. Oftentimes in those situations, this cancer has been caught early enough where there's no big pieces of cancer, no big cancer cells remaining, but there may be microscopic cancer cells. So the chemotherapy or any type of systemic therapy is utilized to try to kill off any microscopic cancer cells that may be left behind that may not be visible to the naked eye," Dr. Jain said.

How extensive was Kate's recovery from abdominal surgery?

Middleton told the public that her recovery after having abdominal surgery has been extensive. 

"… 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’s appropriate for them, and to reassure them that I am going to be OK," she said in part.

The princess needed to recover from her procedure before starting chemotherapy. 

Dr. Jain said depending on the stage of her cancer, there is a period of time that she can wait before starting treatment.

"So depending on the type of cancer and how aggressive it is, sometimes you can wait four to six weeks to start chemotherapy. Sometimes it's sooner, sometimes it's a little big longer. It really depends on the type of surgery; how quickly you heal. Wound healing is very important when you have a surgery and then you have to receive chemotherapy," Dr. Jain said. 

Middleton said she's taking time to focus on her recovery and is encouraging others who are facing the disease to remain hopeful.

"My work has always brought me a deep sense of joy and I look forward to being back when I’m able. But for now, I must focus on making a full recovery. At this time, I’m 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," Middleton said. 

Dr. Jain emphasized how important it is for cancer patients to stay hopeful and to have a strong support system.

"I tell all of my patients that you need to keep on to hope. If you pray, pray, keep your family close. It's really important to have the mental health of the patient and of the family really at the forefront. So keeping hope alive is really important as you go through these types of treatments and making sure you have a good support system as you navigate."