The Timing Of King Charles' Cancer Diagnosis Is So Heartbreaking

King Charles III has been diagnosed with cancer. In a statement from Buckingham Palace on February 5, 2024, it was confirmed that during King Charles' "corrective procedure" for an enlarged prostate — something which doesn't inherently mean cancer — "a separate issue of concern was noted. Subsequent diagnostic tests have identified a form of cancer." He has started treatment for that as yet unnamed cancer as of today.

King Charles had been discharged and was recovering from his procedure with plans in place for him to work from home for a month. He'll still be working from home, according to the Buckingham Palace statement, during "a schedule of regular treatments," and we won't be seeing him at any events in the foreseeable future. 

King Charles was the longest monarch-in-waiting, and his diagnosis comes less than a year after his formal coronation at Westminster Abbey. Our guess is that when he thought about what it would be like to be king, he likely never envisioned a cancer diagnosis clouding his reign so early.

King Charles' cancer diagnosis follows other royal family health concerns

The cancer news about King Charles III is just the latest in a number of health issues affecting the royal family in recent months. King Charles' cancer diagnosis and treatment comes shortly after Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York announced she had been diagnosed with skin cancer following her breast cancer treatment. It also follows Catherine, Princess of Wales' abdominal surgery on January 16, 2024 for an unnamed cause. She stayed in the hospital for two weeks before she was discharged to continue her recovery at Adelaide Cottage in Windsor.

There were two reasons given in the Buckingham Palace statement as to why the royals have released information about the king's cancer. "His Majesty has chosen to share his diagnosis to prevent speculation and in the hope it may assist public understanding for all those around the world who are affected by cancer," the announcement said. 

There was definitely an increased awareness about prostate enlargement in older men following Charles' earlier procedure. Google searches for "enlarged prostate" spiked after the palace originally announced that the king would be going in for treatment. Those searches hopefully corresponded to an increase in understanding about the issue, and more men getting checked for it. Since we don't yet know the type of cancer King Charles has, it's unlikely that there'd quite the same direct one-to-one boost of online searches, but it does show that cancer can impact anyone and hopefully results in increased screenings.

King Charles is being somewhat surprisingly open about his health

What's still unknown is the type of cancer that King Charles has and at what stage it was discovered. There are some potential hints in the official statement as to his diagnosis being something that was caught early, with high hopes for recovery. "The King is grateful to his medical team for their swift intervention, which was made possible thanks to his recent hospital procedure," the statement said. "He remains wholly positive about his treatment." But to reiterate, we don't have any official information beyond the short statement.

However, the fact that we know about the king's diagnosis, as well as the surgery of Catherine, Princess of Wales, is relatively unprecedented. In the past, the royal family has historically chosen to hide their health issues. For example, there was King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II's father, who had an entire lung removed after a diagnosis of lung cancer. That diagnosis was kept private, even from the king himself. Then there was Queen Elizabeth. Her cause of death was listed as "old age," a designation that is to be used rarely as the only reason given for someone's death as it lacks specificity; using it as a contributing factor seems to be more common.

A cancer diagnosis is a scary time for anyone, even if you're the king of England. Our thoughts are with King Charles and his family.