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What we know about King Charles III's health history, from COVID-19 to sports injuries

The announcement that King Charles III has been diagnosed with cancer has come as a shock to many in Britain, largely because the 75-year-old monarch has generally enjoyed good health through the years

Sylvia Hui
Monday 05 February 2024 20:40 GMT

The announcement Monday that King Charles III has been diagnosed with cancer has come as a shock to many in Britain, largely because the 75-year-old monarch has generally enjoyed good health through the years.

Palace officials did not specify what kind of cancer the king has, or how serious his condition is. They only said that it’s not related to the king’s recent hospital treatment for an enlarged prostate.

Charles — who came to the throne after his mother Queen Elizabeth II died in September 2022 — has started a schedule of regular treatments and will postpone public-facing duties, officials said.

Here is a look at Charles' health history, from contracting COVID-19 to a series of injuries sustained from playing polo and hunting over the decades:


Charles was discharged from a private London hospital a week ago after undergoing treatment on an enlarged prostate.

Officials said the condition was benign, though the king canceled engagements and was urged to rest before the procedure.

An enlarged prostate is common in men over age 50 and affects thousands in the U.K. The condition affects how one urinates and isn’t usually a serious health threat. It’s not cancer and doesn’t lead to an increased risk of developing prostate cancer.

Palace officials said the king publicized details about his condition in an effort to encourage other men to have their prostates checked in line with public health advice.


Charles had COVID-19 twice, but officials said that he only suffered mild symptoms both times.

He isolated at home in Scotland in March 2020, during the early days of the pandemic in the U.K. and before vaccines were available. He remained in good health, though he lost his sense of taste and smell for a time. Charles later spoke of the “strange, frustrating and often distressing” experience of being isolated from friends and family during lockdown.

Charles contracted the coronavirus a second time in February 2022. He had been triple-vaccinated at the time.


Charles was a keen polo player and suffered an array of injuries over years of sports and exercise.

In 1980 he was thrown and kicked by his pony during a polo match at Windsor and needed six stitches on his cheek.

In the 1990s he underwent several operations after he broke his right arm in a fall during a polo match and injured his left knee during another game.

In 2001 he was knocked unconscious and taken to the hospital when his horse threw him during a polo match.

Charles also had injuries from hunting accidents. He broke a rib when he fell from his horse in 1998, and in 2001 he fractured a small bone in his shoulder after another tumble.

The king retired from playing polo after more than 40 years in 2005.


There has long been speculation about Charles' swollen “sausage fingers,” with some suggesting they may be due to fluid build-up, arthritis or other conditions.

Whether the puffy digits are due to a health condition remains unexplained, but Charles has on more than one occasion jokingly referenced them himself.

In a BBC documentary on Charles' coronation, the king was seen reassuring his son Prince William when he struggled to fasten one of the ceremonial robes. He jokingly told William not to worry, because “you haven't got sausage fingers like mine.”


Charles has had other minor medical treatments over the years.

In 2008 he had a non-cancerous growth removed from the bridge of his nose in a minor, routine procedure. He had a hernia operation at a private hospital in 2003, and joked “hernia today, gone tomorrow” to waiting reporters when he was discharged the next day.

Charles has also spoken about his back pain. He is known to travel on royal tours with a cushion, and a velvet cushion is usually placed on his chair during state banquets at Buckingham Palace.

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