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New Recommendations Published on the Management of Emotional and Psycho-Oncological Needs of People with Head and Neck Cancer

BRUSSELS, April 23, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --


  • Patients with head and neck cancer suffer more frequently from mental health conditions and psychological distress than patients with other types of cancer
  • Practical emotional support is needed to help patients optimise their outcomes through compliance with clinical care and adherence to treatment regimens

The European Head and Neck Cancer Society (EHNS) has today released new recommendations for the best practice management of psycho-oncologic aspects of head and neck cancer. The article, published online on the Annals of Oncology website, provides practical advice to support physicians in delivering optimal care.

Head and Neck cancer is the sixth most common cancer worldwide, and kills over 132,000 people across Europe each year.1 It is often diagnosed at a late stage, where treatment options may not be curative, or are associated with serious post-treatment impact. Studies have reported that people with head and neck cancer suffer from mental health conditions and psychological distress more often than other cancer patients,2 with patients in the US being up to four-times as likely to commit suicide as the general population.3

Treatment to remove tumours from the head and neck region can result in facial disfigurement, or impaired physical functions such as speaking, eating and breathing. These outcomes are distressing for patients. The new recommendations, developed by a multidisciplinary group of experts in the field of head and neck cancer as part of the EHNS's Make Sense Campaign, seek to encourage greater psychological support for patients throughout every stage of their cancer journey.1 This support would be beneficial in helping patients achieve the best possible results from their treatment, and ultimately improving their health outcomes.

"Surgical and therapeutic advances are helping physicians to prolong patient lives in head and neck cancer," said Professor Jean Louis Lefebvre, President of EHNS. "However, physicians now face a new challenge in providing adequate psychological support to patients as they adjust to life with sometimes significant physical, and emotional, scars."

Professor René Leemans, Secretary of the EHNS added, "Through the development of these robust recommendations we have reviewed every stage of the patient journey from the point of diagnosis to post-treatment, and identified the best management practices available to the healthcare professionals involved in the treatment of head and neck cancer. We are confident that if these steps are followed, healthcare professionals can make notable improvements to head and neck cancer patient's lives."

The EHNS recommendations provide guidance to healthcare professionals, highlighting the available tools to support their role of communicating medical information to patients, the type of responses and psychological effects they can expect in patients, and how best to manage them.

One of the main recommendations is that each patient should be allocated a contact person to support them through every stage of their journey. This individual should offer practical support (such as encouraging attendance at hospital appointments or how to fit treatment around daily life); monitor for changes in the patient's mental health; and ensure the patient has access to the support they require.

These recommendations aim to simply and effectively support healthcare professionals in providing the best possible care to the patients, and ultimately leading to improved patient's outcomes.

To see the full article, visit

For more information, visit


  1. Reich M, Leemans CR et al. Best practices in the management of the psycho-oncologic aspects of head and neck cancer patients: Recommendations from the European Head and Neck Cancer Society Make Sense Campaign. Annals of Oncology 2014; doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdu105.
  2. Singer S, Krauss O, Keszte J et al. Predictors of emotional distress in patients with head and neck cancer. Head & Neck 2012; 34: 180-187.
  3. Zeller JL. High suicide risk found for patients with head and neck cancer. The Journal of the American Medical Association 2006; 296: 1716-1717.

About the Make Sense Campaign  

The Make Sense campaign, run by the European Head and Neck Society (EHNS), aims to raise awareness of head and neck cancer and ultimately improve outcomes for patients with the disease. It will do this through:

  • Education on disease prevention
  • Driving understanding of the signs and symptoms of the disease
  • Encouraging earlier presentation, diagnosis and referral

The Make Sense Campaign is supported by Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of Merck, Boehringer Ingelheim and Transgene.

About the EHNS 

The European Head and Neck Society (EHNS) is an international non-profit association based in Belgium. The EHNS is composed of individuals, national and multinational societies, and associated study groups oriented towards head and neck cancer research, training and treatment throughout Europe. Individuals from the rest of the world are also welcome to apply for membership. The intent of the EHNS is to promote exchange of knowledge in all aspects of head and neck neoplastic diseases and to promote the highest standards of research, education and training, disease prevention and patient care.

About Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancer is a way of describing any cancer that is found in the head or neck region, except for in the eyes and brain, ears. They usually begin in the squamous cells that line the most, 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 in Europe.  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.  

Despite its severity and increasing prevalence within society, there is little awareness of head and neck cancer and patient outcomes remain very poor; 60% of people with head and neck cancer present with locally advanced disease at diagnosis, and 60% of people diagnosed at an advanced stage die from the disease within 5 years. However, for those patients diagnosed in the early stages of the disease there is an 80-90% survival rate.

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.

Media contacts:
Fiona Walton
[email protected]

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