Fig. 1: Parade of flags is led by the Emerald Society Pipes and Drums from the New York City Police Department. Photo courtesy of the American Head and Neck Society.
The vast majority of these cancers can be prevented or can be cured if detected early. However, millions suffer from delayed diagnosis, inadequate treatment, inappropriate rehabilitation, and palliation.
—Jatin P. Shah, MD, FACS
A spectacular parade of nations from 90 countries led by the Emerald Society Pipes and Drums from the New York City Police Department opened the 5th World Congress of the International Federation of Head and Neck Oncologic Societies (IFHNOS) on July 27 in New York City. The 4-day event was held in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the American Head and Neck Society (AHNS) and coincided with the centennial anniversary of the first head and neck cancer surgery service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York.
The conference drew more than 3,100 specialists in head and neck cancer from around the world to share advancements and research in their field and included presentations of over 500 oral papers and 1,300 posters.
Head and Neck Cancer a Global Burden
Declaring July 27 World Head and Neck Cancer Day, Jatin P. Shah, MD, FACS, Chief, Head and Neck Service at MSKCC, Congress Chairman of IFHNOS, and Past President of AHNS, spoke about the need to reduce the global burden of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.
“The vast majority of these cancers can be prevented or can be cured if detected early. However, millions suffer from delayed diagnosis, inadequate treatment, inappropriate rehabilitation, and palliation,” said Dr. Shah. “We call upon the World Health Organization and the Union for International Cancer Control to also recognize July 27 as World Head and Neck Cancer Day and to join the international movement to increase awareness and promote education and training in the diagnosis, treatment, outcomes, and research in head and neck cancer.”
Political and Film Luminaries Address the World Congress
The opening session of the 5th World Congress included a video presentation by former President Bill Clinton, who said the event marked an important milestone of 100 years of dedicated research and advocacy in head and neck health. “Every year, nearly 350,000 lives are lost to head and neck cancer and almost twice that amount in new cases are diagnosed,” said President Clinton.
President Clinton’s remarks were followed by a speech by Academy Award-winning actor and cancer survivor Michael Douglas (see “Michael Douglas Speaks Out About Having a Life-Threatening Cancer,” on page 123). Diagnosed with stage IV oropharyngeal cancer in 2010, Mr. Douglas spoke about his personal experience with the disease, the delay in getting an accurate diagnosis, and the importance of scientific research to further treatment advances in the cancer.
Public Knows Little About Head and Neck Cancers
According to a study1 published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, few Americans know about the symptoms and risk factors associated with head and neck cancer and only about one in eight is able to identify human papillomavirus (HPV) infection as a risk factor for mouth and throat cancer. According to Patrick Gullane, MD, Chair of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Toronto, who gave the Hayes Martin Lecture at the 5th World Congress, the incidence of head and neck cancer from HPV infection increased 225% between 1988 and 2004. Educating the public about HPV-related cancer and the importance of HPV vaccines to protect against head and neck cancer will reduce new cases of the disease. “The future is in prevention,” said Dr. Gullane.
For additional information on the 5th World Congress, visit www.ahns2014.org. For dates of upcoming meetings of the American Head & Neck Society, visit http://www.ahns.info/meetings. ■
1. Luryi AL, Yarbrough WG, Niccolai LM, et al: Public awareness of head and neck cancers: A cross-sectional survey. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 140:639-646, 2014.