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Salivary Gland Cancer


Salivary Gland Cancer


Salivary Gland Cancer is a rare disease that forms in the tissues of salivary glands. It happens in the organs of your mouth or throat that produces saliva. It forms a painless lump in the mouth or jaw area. 

The treatment options are also determined on the basis of the location and spread of cancer on salivary glands. Salivary gland cancer can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous) and both can affect the functioning of salivary glands.

Risk Factors

There are several risk factors that can increase the chances of developing Salivary Gland Cancer such as –

  • The age group of 55 or older
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Previous treatments such as radiation therapy for head and neck cancer
  • Occupation related to plumbing, rubber product manufacturing, or leatherwork.

Research and studies have shown that most salivary gland cancer cases are often linked with deadly diseases and infections such as the Epstein-Barr virus and Human Papillomavirus (HPV).

Salivary Gland Cancer


Salivary Gland cancer symptoms are unnoticeable especially in benign (non-cancerous) tumors. In the majority of cases, a painless lump develops in the salivary gland. However, malignant (cancerous) tumors come with certain symptoms such as-

  • Numbness or weakness in the face, neck, jaw, or mouth.
  • Facing difficulty in opening your mouth
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Pain or bleeding in the mouth
  • Persistent pain in the face, neck, or jaw area.

Diagnosis and Tests

The diagnosis of salivary gland cancer is determined on the basis of stage, type, and symptoms of cancer. The various diagnostic tests performed to confirm the presence of a tumor are as follows –

  1. CT scanIt uses x-rays to determine the tumor size and spread of cancer to other parts of the body.
  2. MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) It uses magnets to create detailed images of internal organs. Unlike, CT scan that helps in determining tumor size. MRI scan is known to evaluate tumor size and the spread of cancer of soft tissues such as blood vessels, muscles, and nerves.
  3. PET scanIt uses a small number of radioactive materials to check if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
  4. Biopsy It takes a small amount of tissue or fluid from the salivary gland for the identification of tumors in the samples. It is one of the most effective treatments to confirm cancerous salivary gland tumors.

Salivary Gland Cancer Staging

The diagnostic tests will help in determining cancer spread to salivary glands and other parts of the body. The staging system that forms in different glands of the mouth are parotid glands, submandibular glands, and sublingual glands depending on the TLM system i.e.

  • Tumor size and location
  • Lymph node spread
  • Cancer has metastasized or not to other organs

The cancer stage will help in determining the treatment options and diagnosis for better recovery and care. 


Surgery is the best treatment option that can remove the tumors effectively by also stopping the spread of cancer in other parts of the body. The range of treatments included are –

  1. Surgery It removes the tumor in addition to lymph nodes that have got affected due to the spread of cancer. After surgery, doctors usually prefer radiation therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells left. 
  2. Radiation Therapy It uses radiation to destroy cancer cells in the body. Photon beam and neutron beam radiation are the two types of radiation performed to treat salivary gland cancer.
  3. Chemotherapy It uses anti-drugs called “chemo” to destroy cancer cells in the body. It is usually performed when cancer has spread to other tissues outside of the head and neck.

New types of treatments are being studied in clinical trials that include

  1. Immunotherapy It uses drugs to boost your immune system for destroying cancer cells in the body.
  2. Targeted Therapy It specifically targets genetic code (DNA) to stop the growth of cancer cells in the body.
  3. Radiosensitizers These make cancer cells more sensitive to radiation.

Sometimes, combination treatments are needed for stopping the growth and multiplication of cancer cells in different organs of the body.


Salivary gland cancer can be prevented by avoiding certain risks such as smoking and frequent alcohol consumption. However, there is no accurate prevention of salivary gland cancer. 


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