Consultants:      Dr Alex Stewart

Dr Sharadah Essapen

The Royal Surrey County Hospital was the first hospital in the South to offer Papillion treatment for cancer after a major fundraising campaign by local bowel cancer charities BRIGHT & GUTS.

Papillon is a contact radiotherapy treatment suitable for patients with early stage rectal cancer which offers an alternative to major surgery.  The technique may also avoid the need for a lifetime of using a colostomy bag – something which is a major issue for many people.

Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in the UK and more than 16,000 people die from bowel cancer every year.  There are approximately 8,000 rectal cancers diagnosed each year and up to a third of these tumours might be suitable for the Papillon treatment.

The roll out of the National Bowel Cancer Screening programme (Guildford is the centre for the South of England for testing patients) will find many early stage tumours which are suitable for the Papillon technique.

“If you’ve been diagnosed with early stage bowel cancer, treatment with a Papillon machine is an option everyone should have the chance to explore as it is an alternative to life-changing surgery.  I’m delighted to say that we can now offer patients from across the South of England this option,” said Dr Alexandra Stewart, consultant clinical oncologist at the Royal Surrey County Hospital and chairman of BRIGHT.


Traditionally patients diagnosed with bowel cancer have to undergo major abdominal surgery and, as the operation removes part of the lower bowel, some patients also require a colostomy bag.  With a Papillon machine, treatment is less invasive – it is applied directly to the tumour so there is less damage to the surrounding normal tissue.  Although surgery remains the current gold standard of care, Papillon therapy allows patients who want to explore organ preserving therapy to have an alternative treatment option.

Papillon treatment for Rectal Cancer

The St Luke’s Cancer Centre, Royal Surrey County Hospital, has become the first location in the South of England to offer the Papillon treatment for rectal cancer. The Papillon machine was delivered on the 19 August 2013 after a major fundraising campaign by BRIGHT (in partnership with GUTS). Until now, Papillon was only available in the UK at the Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology, Liverpool and Castle Hill Hospital, Hull.

With the introduction of a Papillon machine to the Royal Surrey, patients from across the South of England can now explore this treatment option. BRIGHT & GUTS have worked together to raise the initial funds for the Papillon machine deposit which has enabled delivery of the machine, allowing patients to explore this treatment option sooner rather than later. However fundraising continues over the coming months to meet the remaining investment required. Please help us in our fundraising – one-off donations of any amount can be made quickly and easily via our virgin money page. Or you could help even more by setting up your own fundraising page on JustGiving to get your family and friends involved.

Papillon (meaning butterfly in French) is a contact radiotherapy treatment suitable for patients with early stage bowel cancer. This treatment offers patients an alternative to major surgery and a better quality of life. The technique reduces the likelihood of a permanent colostomy bag, which is a major issue for many patients.


What is the Papillon Radiotherapy?

With the improvements in bowel/colorectal screening in the UK, more patients will be diagnosed with early rectal cancer. Management of this condition has improved beyond recognition in recent years and so have the resources available to help patients make informed treatment choices. Contact radiotherapy using the Papillon technique is one such option and may be suitable for you, a family member or a patient you are supporting.

Treatments are carried out a short distance from the tumour rather than in physical contact. The term X ray Brachytherapy (short distance) has been adopted to best describe the treatment technique. It was first developed in France by Professor J. Papillon for the treatment of rectal cancer and it has now been adopted by several leading cancer centres throughout the world. The treatments are given in high doses to an area close to the tumour. This is done every 2 weeks for a total of three outpatient treatments. Aside from some local anaesthetic in the form of cream, no other anaesthesia is required.

Treatment with the Papillon 50 does not destroy muscle function and can avoid surgery along with distressing side effects such as incontinence. Recovery is faster and quality of life is preserved.

If you would like more information about Papillon treatment or to find out if it might be a suitable option for you or someone you know who is suffering from early stage rectal cancer, please contact consultant clinical oncologist Dr Alexandra Stewart at the Royal Surrey County Hospital.


Papillon 50 Treatment

This equipment is a completely new design based on advice and guidance from a team of experienced clinical advisors. The latest high frequency servo controlled X-ray generator technology has been combined with real time endoscopic viewing and touch screen control in a compact mobile system. The machine uses 50 kVp X-rays and requires no special facility shielding or other preparation. Treatment accessory packages are being introduced on a progressive basis for several different treatment sites.

The equipment includes:-

  • Patient Support System with optional tilting couch
  • A starter set of sterilisable applicators
  • Endoscope with light source and video camera incorporating computer interface


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