King Charles has spoken of his “lifelong admiration” for cancer charities and offered “heartfelt thanks” for messages of support received since he was diagnosed with cancer.
The king added that it was “heartening” that the announcement of his illness had helped shine a light on organisations supporting cancer patients and their families. Charities say the public focus on cancer has allowed them to highlight issues they had previously struggled to get attention for.
In a statement released on Saturday night, the king said: “I would like to express my most heartfelt thanks for the many messages of support and good wishes I have received in recent days.
“As all those who have been affected by cancer will know, such kind thoughts are the greatest comfort and encouragement.
“It is equally heartening to hear how sharing my own diagnosis has helped promote public understanding and shine a light on the work of all those organisations which support cancer patients and their families across the UK and wider world.
“My lifelong admiration for their tireless care and dedication is all the greater as a result of my own personal experience.”
Charles, 75, is staying at the Sandringham estate in Norfolk while receiving treatment and has handed over public-facing duties to Prince William in the meantime but is continuing with official paperwork.
He was diagnosed with an unspecified cancer after receiving treatment for an enlarged prostate – tests identified a form of cancer that is not related to the prostate – and officials said that he wanted to share his diagnosis to assist public understanding of the diseases.
Charities with royal patrons said they had seen extraordinary amounts of attention since the news emerged.
Prostate Cancer UK saw a 500% rise in people visiting its website and the number of men using its online risk checker to see whether they should get a prostate checkup – usually a blood test.
The king is patron of Marie Curie and Macmillan Cancer Support, which said it had also seen a four-year high in visits to its website.
Maggie’s, whose patron is the queen, said the king’s decision to continue to work was very important since most people assume that cancer patients give up work. It means people with cancer often do not tell their employers and 40% even take holiday to go to appointments rather than sick leave.
Laura Lee, chief executive of Maggie’s, said people visiting Maggie’s centres are worried about keeping their jobs and being passed over for promotion if they reveal their condition.
“Everyone diagnosed with cancer should be aware that they have employment rights but also know that they don’t have to tell colleagues until they’re ready, if at all.”
Tenovus Cancer Care, a Welsh charity supported by the Princess Royal, said that it had been trying to persuade more men to join its All-Wales Cancer Community, which aims to give cancer patients and their families a greater say in how care is arranged.
Chief executive Judi Rhys said the public response had been “staggering”.“Despite the awful circumstances, it’s been really positive to see the amount of awareness it’s raised and conversations it’s sparked,” she said.
“[Cancer] is still a difficult subject for many people, particularly men. Men are more likely to develop cancer, but we see more women engage with our services. This means there will be a lot of men out there who aren’t getting help.
“We hugely admire the decision to share the king’s diagnosis, and we hope the national conversation will help other men to open up and reach out. The more we talk about it, the more lives we’ll save.”