First ever pan-European head and neck cancer awareness week

The European Head and Neck Society (EHNS) today announces the launch of the first ever pan-European head and neck cancer awareness week. The week will run up until Friday 27th September and will focus on raising awareness of this treatable disease, which kills over 62,000 people across Europe each year. Head and neck cancer is the 6th most common cancer worldwide, and more than 132,000 people were diagnosed with the disease across Europe in 2012 alone. Head and neck cancer affects multiple areas, including the inside of the mouth and tongue (‘oral cavity’), the throat (‘pharynx’) and the voice box (‘larynx’). It does not include the brain or eyes. 

“Unlike other cancers there is worryingly low awareness of the signs and symptoms of head and neck cancer amongst the general public and healthcare professionals” said Professor Jean Louis Lefebvre, President of the EHNS and Professor of ENT and Head and Neck Surgery, Centre Oscar Lambert, Lille, France. “By launching this awareness week as part of the Make Sense Campaign, we hope to drive a greater understanding and awareness of the disease, so that we encourage earlier presentation, diagnosis and referral, and ultimately save patients’ lives across Europe.” 

Head and neck cancer affects people of all ages, genders and ethnicities. It is most common in males over the age of 40, however, in recent years there has also been a significant increase in the number of younger women being diagnosed. The main risk factors include cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption. 

“The public need to be educated on the critical risk factors for the disease – smoking, drinking alcohol and, increasingly, a link to certain subtypes of the human papilloma virus, HPV,” said Professor René Leemans, General Secretary of the EHNS and Professor and Chief of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at VU University Medical Centre. “Head and neck cancer can be effectively treated if caught early enough, so it is vital that people are educated on the signs and symptoms of the disease.” 


By spotting symptoms of head and neck cancer early and seeking medical advice it is possible to dramatically improve survival outcomes and save lives. Experts state that if ONE of the following symptoms is present for THREE weeks people should visit their doctor. 

  • Sore tongue, non-healing mouth ulcers and/or red or white patches in the mouth 
  • Pain in the throat 
  • Persistent hoarseness 
  • Painful and/or difficulty swallowing 
  • Lump in the neck 
  • Blocked nose on one side/or bloody discharge from the nose 

How to get involved: 

If you would like to get involved and help raise awareness of head and neck cancer, you can: 

  • Get people talking – download flyers and posters to promote the campaign and get people talking about the One-for-Three signs and symptoms 
  • Watch and share their educational video about head and neck cancer 
  • Sign the Make Sense Campaign petition – Show your support, alongside European Parliamentarians for the Make Sense Campaign 
  • Join the conversation on Twitter – use our their hashtag #makesense and then visit their website 

For more information, visit