The “Make Sense Campaign”, an initiative promoted by the European Head and Neck Cancer Society (the European Society of Head and Neck Cancer), will be held from 17 to 21 September. The aim is to raise awareness of symptoms related to head and neck cancer, thus promoting early diagnosis and improving the prognosis of patients.

The Italian Association of Cervical Cephalic Oncology (AIOCC) is also a member of the Campaign, in order to spread greater awareness of head and neck cancers in our country and thus promote a better culture of early diagnosis. The initiative has received the patronage of the Italian Federation of Associations of Laringectomized and Head and Neck Oncological Patients (FIALPO) and the Italian Association of Laringectomy (AILAR Onlus). Various initiatives will be organized throughout the country, including outpatient visits with an aim for prevention.

Humanitas has chosen the day of Friday, September 21 to offer free preventive visits to patients over 45 years of age and smokers. Reservations are required to participate. To book, click here.

What are the risk factors for these cancers and the signals that should not be underestimated? We discuss this topic with Professor Giuseppe Spriano, Head of Otorhinolaryngology in Humanitas and lecturer at Humanitas University.


Head and neck cancers

Head and neck cancers are a group of cancers that originate mainly from the squamous cells of the tissues of organs such as lips, mouth, tongue, throat, larynx, pharynx, nasal cavities and sinuses; there are more than thirty areas between the head and neck where these cancers can develop.

They account for 20% of all malignant tumors in men (men are more affected than women) and rank seventh among the most common cancers in Europe. Although these are serious cancers and their prevalence is increasing, awareness of these types of cancer is very low. It is estimated that 60% of patients with head and neck cancer have a locally advanced disease at diagnosis and 60% of people receiving an advanced diagnosis die from the disease within five years. This is even more worrying when one considers that with a diagnosis in the early stages of the disease, the survival rate is 80-90%.

The campaign in which Humanitas has chosen to take part is therefore very important because it makes it possible to focus attention on this group of cancers, to offer potential risk patients a free specialist visit and to raise awareness of the importance of early diagnosis.


Risk factors

Smoking and alcohol are two of the main risk factors for the onset of this group of cancers, especially for those originating from the mucous membranes. Infection with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) also plays a central role in recent decades, especially in oropharyngeal tumors. Men are most affected, although the incidence in women is increasing, and these cancers are more frequent after the age of 40.


Signs that should not be underestimated

Symptoms may vary depending on the location of the tumor. These are often non-specific signs that may be underestimated.

If one of the following signs persists for more than three weeks, it is advisable to have an ear, nose or throat examination:


  • Nodule in the neck.
  • Tongue pain.
  • White or red patches on the oral mucosa.
  • Sore throat.
  • Pain on swallowing.
  • Lowering of the voice
  • Monolateral nasal obstruction.