On the 23 of September 2014, the European Head and Neck Society (EHNS) and the European Cancer Patient Coalition (ECPC) reconvened in the European Parliament to call for the implementation of a Europe-wide head and neck cancer early diagnosis awareness programme.

The meeting, hosted by Ciprian Tănăsescu, took place during the second annual Make Sense Campaign Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, and was attended by MEPs, representatives of the European Commission and a panel of European head and neck cancer experts. The aim of the event was to harness the support of the European Commission for an early diagnosis strategy in head and neck cancer, devised by the EHNS and ECPC.

Over 150,000 people across Europe are diagnosed with head and neck cancer each year, and approximately 70,000 die from the disease annually. Early diagnosis remains at the core of the Make Sense Campaign, which was launched in 2012 to raise awareness of head and neck cancer and improve quality of life and outcomes for patients with the disease.

“There is a concerning lack of awareness of head and neck cancer and its signs and symptoms, despite it being the sixth most common type of cancer globally. Consequently, over half of patients are diagnosed in the late stages when the survival rate is just 60%.” commented host MEP Ciprian Tănăsescu. “Cancer prevention campaigns must remain a priority within the EU, and support from the Commission will help drive awareness, encourage earlier presentation and diagnosis, and ultimately improve patient outcomes in the future”, concluded Ciprian Tanasescu.

The event follows from a joint EHNS/ECPC White Paper, launched to MEPs during the inaugural Make Sense Campaign Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week in 2013. The White Paper, ‘Head and Neck Cancer: The ‘curable’ cancer that kills over half of all sufferers – it is time to do something about it’ addressed the urgent need for improved awareness, diagnosis and referral of head and neck cancer patients throughout Europe. There was significant support for the White Paper, with MEPs from across Europe in attendance, thus prompting this follow-up meeting involving representatives from the European Commission, to drive the campaign at the European level.

“If caught at an early stage, patients with head and neck cancer have an 80–90% chance of survival,” said Professor René Leemans, President of the EHNS and Professor of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, VU Medical Center, Amsterdam. “To achieve European Commission involvement in the ongoing Make Sense Campaign activities would result in greater awareness of the signs and symptoms of the disease, ensuring that patients across Europe are diagnosed early, receive optimal treatment and consequently have a greater chance of survival.”

For more information, visit www.makesensecampaign.eu

About Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancer is a way of describing any cancer that that is found in the head or neck region, excluding the eyes, brain, ears or oesophagus.This type of cancer usually begins in the squamous cells that line the moist, mucosal surfaces inside the head and neck: for example inside the mouth, nose and throat.

Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer globally. It is about half as common as lung cancer, but twice as common as cervical cancer. There were more than 150,000 new patients diagnosed in Europe in 2012.

Although men are two to three times more likely to develop head and neck cancer, the incidence is increasing in women. Head and neck cancer is most common in people over the age of 40, but there has been a recent increase in younger people developing the disease.