Surgeon William Marsden opens first cancer hospital in London, UK

Cancer Hospital Brompton 

In the 19th century, the quality of surgery and post-operative survival improves greatly through the development of anaesthesia and working in sterile conditions.  Cellular pathology and endocrinology are developing. Revolutionary developments in the medical and technical areas lay the basis for modern medicine and medical care.  In many places in Europe and the US, large specialized hospitals and laboratories are set up.  Diseases of all kinds can now be treated with a better chance of cure. 

In 1851, the first specialized cancer hospital is opened in London (United Kingdom), by surgeon William Marsden [8]. Marsden arrived at this initiative after his wife Elizabeth died from cancer in 1846.  He opened a small hospital at Nr. 1 Cannon Row, Westminster, for the treatment of cancer patients and for research.  In this Free Cancer Hospital, patients who were unable to pay for their treatment were also admitted.  Within less than 10 years, the Free Cancer Hospital had grown into a large institute - housed in a new building with 120 beds - better known as the Brompton Cancer Hospital, under the direction of William Marsden as the principal surgeon.  This cancer hospital still exists today (2013) under the name Royal Marsden Hospital and is as such, the oldest cancer hospital in the world. 

At its foundation in 1851 patients could only be surgically treated with any success, and besides the emphasis was on good nursing.  Research was only just beginning.  After the discovery of the biological effects of ionizing radiation, around 1900 irradiation with X-rays and later with radium radiation became available, next to surgery, for the treatment of tumours.


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