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A Brief History of Cancer Services in Glasgow

Glasgow Cancer Hospital

In 1890 the Glasgow Cancer and Skin Institution (founded 1886; 400 St Vincent Street) acquired a house at 163 Hill Street. The ten-bed hospital was one of the first hospitals in the world solely dedicated to the treatment of Cancer.

In 1893, Dr. George Beatson (later Sir George Beatson KCB, KBE), was appointed surgeon to the hospital. George Beatson had family origins around the town of Campbeltown at the southern end of the Kintyre peninsula on the West Coast of Scotland. His father George Stewart Beatson, was Surgeon General to the Indian Army and came from a family with sea-going traditions. His mother was the daughter of an officer in the Ceylon Rifles.

The following year, the Glasgow Cancer Hospital (the first of its kind in Scotland), was established, together with an outdoor dispensary, at 22 West Graham Street. A domiciliary nursing service was set up at the same time to care for cancer patients in their own homes.

In 1896, new premises with 30 beds were acquired at 132 Hill Street. In the same year Beatson published his landmark paper in The Lancet, a report of three patients with breast cancer whom he had treated by bilateral oophorectomy. This work forms the basis of the current anti-hormonal treatment of breast cancer and the operation is still performed today.

In 1912, HRH Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, opened the rebuilt facilities which were named the Royal Glasgow Cancer Hospital. In the same year a research department was founded and the first director of research (Dr. Charles Walker) was appointed, making the institute one of the oldest "Comprehensive Cancer Centers" in the world.

With the inception of the Scottish National Health Service (NHS) in 1948, the hospital came under control of the Western Board of Management, and was renamed the Royal Beatson Memorial Hospital in 1953.

In 1967, the Research Laboratories were renamed the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research, which continued to occupy the upper floors of the hospital until 1977, when they moved to a new site at Garscube Estate (renamed the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in 2013).

The clinical section moved to a new centre within the Western Infirmary and was named the Beatson Oncology Centre.

In 2007, the Beatson Oncology Centre, which was by that time, spread over 4 hospitals (Western Infirmary, Gartnavel General Hospital, Glasgow Royal Infirmary and Stobhill Hospital moved to a newly built Cancer Hospital, The Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre (BWSCC) in the grounds of Gartnavel Campus.

The BWSCC is the lead centre for delivery of non-surgical cancer care for the West of Scotland, serving a population of 2.8 million and has clinical links with 16 hospitals in five health boards.