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Celebrating 25 Years of the St Luke’s Cancer Centre at The Royal Surrey

Published on: 24 Feb, 2022
Updated on: 28 Feb, 2022

This week marks 25 years since the official opening of St Luke’s Cancer Centre at Royal Surrey County Hospital by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on February 21, 1997.

The Queen opened St Lukes Cancer Centre on February 21, 1997.

And it is still delivering lifesaving treatment to people in Surrey and beyond, and staying “at the forefront of research innovations”, said chief executive Louise Stead.

Emma McCormick was the first patient in the UK to be treated for cervical cancer using the Ethos machine which uses artificial intelligence to deliver a prescription dose to tumours. Emma has now completed her treatment at St Luke’s and is currently living free of cancer.

St Luke’s Cancer Centre.

She said: “I was diagnosed with cancer of the cervix in April 2021 and referred to St Luke’s for treatment. It was a shock to get the diagnosis and things were made more difficult because of lockdown and not being able to see people or go out, but I felt confident and reassured that I was in the best possible hands.

“The radiographers were incredibly kind and thoughtful. When I had my first treatment, I was wearing Star Wars socks and they played the Star Wars theme tune on the machine for me. It became a running joke at each session that I would wear Disney socks and the team would play the appropriate theme tune.”

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh sign the visitors’ book at the opening of the St Luke’s Cancer Centre.

At the official opening, the chairman of the hospital board at the time, Colston Herbert, said that more than 2,500 people would be seen each year in the new cancer centre from about 1.5 million people stretching from the outskirts of London to the south coast.

Today, the Royal Surrey County Hospital serves a population of three million across the south-east of England and accepts referrals across England for specialist radiotherapy. In 2021 the hospital supported more than 8,500 cancer patients.

The Duke of Edinburgh meets staff at the official opening of the St Lukes Cancer Centre.

Sharadah Essapen, consultant oncologist and chief of service for oncology, joined the hospital’s trust in 1999. She said: “Cancer care is very different from 25 years ago. Back then, you were very much a general oncologist, whereas now we specialise in one or two tumour sites.

“Treatment has become more advanced and consequently complex to deliver. We now have a more holistic focus so we don’t just treat patients for cancer, we care for the psychological effect of the condition on our patients and their families.”

Timeline of the St Luke’s Cancer Centre.

Louise Stead said: “Our patients have some of the best outcomes in the country because of their dedication and care, and because we have invested in our cancer teams, technology and stayed at the forefront of research innovations.”

St Luke’s has a long history of innovation, starting at the original St Luke’s Hospital in Warren Road, Guildford, with the instalment of the UK’s first Betatron electron therapy unit, the most up-to-date cancer treatment technology at the time.

Over the 25 years that St Luke’s has been at the Royal Surrey, the hospital has continued to innovate. It has more surgical robots in a single site than any other NHS trust. These robots use tiny instruments allowing for precise and minimally invasive cancer operations.

The hospital also has a buoyant research portfolio with 50 studies striving to improve cancer care open right now, giving patients access to a wider range of treatment options and helping to advance treatment.

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