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The European Head and Neck Society (EHNS):
what has been achieved so far?


jl lefebvre

Prof J. L. Lefebvre, MD
EHNS Chairman


The European Head and Neck Society (EHNS) was formally established in 2006. Its intent 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. It is a multidisciplinary body bringing together clinicians (for example head and neck / oral / plastic surgeons, radiation therapists, medical oncologists, imaging specialists, pathologists), other health professionals (for example speech therapists, cancer nurses, psychologists, physiotherapists, dieticians, social workers), basic scientists and patient organisations involved in any aspect of head and neck oncology. A European Conference on Head and Neck Oncology (ECHNO) will be organised every two years. Herein we report on the first pioneering years of this society as a follow-up on our previous article in ENT News.(1)


r leemans

Prof C. R.Leemans, MD, PhD,
EHNS Secretary



The EHNS is registered as an international non-profit association under Belgian law. It is composed of individual persons, national and multi-national societies, associated study groups oriented towards head and neck cancer research, training and treatment throughout Europe and elsewhere in the world. The membership application form is online and two referees are needed.
The applications are scrutinised and approved by the board. In case of existing national societies entirely or mainly devoted to head and neck tumours, the society as a whole can become a member for a certain amount per capita registration fee. National or international study groups may be associated members as a whole, on an individual basis. Patient’s organisations may be members of EHNS for free.

Bodies that have collectively joined include the Spanish, Polish, Turkish, Hellenic, Belgian, French, Dutch and Scandinavian societies. The British Association of Head and Neck Oncology will probably soon follow. Others have shown interest to join. This makes the EHNS scientifically and financially sound and healthy.

The EHNS is governed by a board which consists of a president, president elect, general secretary, treasurer, and eight members (one surgeon, one radiation therapist, one medical oncologist, imaging specialist, one pathologist, one basic scientist, one other health professional, and one representative of a patient’s organisation).

The board members are elected for four years and may be re-elected only once, with exception of the president who cannot be re-elected. Elections are organised every four years during the general assembly after call for candidatures and via a secret vote by all members in good standing. The original plan to elect a board in 2008 proved unpractical and too soon, and consequently it was decided that the founding board consisting of Jean Louis Lefebvre (Lille, France) as president, René Leemans (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) as general secretary, Guy Andry (Brussels, Belgium) as treasurer and Jan Olofsson (Bergen, Norway, representing Scandinavia), Patrick Bradley (Nottingham, UK), and Dominique Chevalier (Lille, France) stayed in office until the 4th European Conference on Head and Neck Oncology. This ECHNO is to be held in Athens in collaboration with Alexis Rapidis in 2010 where a general assembly will elect a new board.

What has been achieved so far?

One of the first things the new society did was to establish a website ( that currently already includes much information for the workers in the field of head and neck oncology in Europe. Secondly,after the first two very successful European head and neck conferences held in Lille, France in 2001 and 2003, the third conference was held in Zagreb in 2008 and was organised by Miljenko Bura. In collaboration with the European Society for Therapeutic Radiation and Oncology we organised the first International Conference on Innovative Approaches in Head & Neck Oncology in Barcelona, Spain in 2007 and the second edition, in 2009 when the European Society of Medical Oncology also joined forces. All these platforms help to increase international collaboration in the field and to foster professional relations. The EHNS is a member of the newly established European Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and co-operates with the International Academy of Oral Oncology. During the respective conferences of these bodies the EHNS sponsors and organises symposia.

The EHNS also works in partnership with several other discipline-based and organ based organisations towards the development of multidisciplinary projects and courses that contribute to the training of head and neck specialists. One example is the annual European Head and Neck Course (, which is alternatively held in Birmingham, UK and Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

A pan-European survey called ‘About Face’ was conducted in collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry to gauge current awareness and understanding of head and neck cancer and its associated risk factors. Overall it revealed a worrying lack of awareness about head and neck cancer across Europe and a need for further education. The official journal of the society is the European Archives of Otolaryngology Head and Neck and the society has one page per issue to communicate EHNS news.



The EHNS is a newly established very active multidisciplinary society in Europe that already has a healthy membership that is likely to take lead in Europe in the field and thus has a bright future.

Related to the founding of the EHNS.


1. Leemans CR, Bradley PJ, on behalf of the EHNS founding board. The European Head and Neck Society (EHNS): a true multidisciplinary platform for head and neck oncology. ENT News 2006;15:88-90.
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