Main Image

About salivary gland cancer

What is salivary gland cancer?

What is salivary gland cancer?

The salivary glands make saliva and release it into the mouth. Saliva has enzymes that help digest food and antibodies that help protect against infections of the mouth and throat. There are 3 pairs of major salivary glands:

  • Parotid glands: These are the largest salivary glands and are found in front of and just below each ear. Most major salivary gland tumors begin in this gland.
  • Sublingual glands: These glands are found under the tongue in the floor of the mouth.
  • Submandibular glands: These glands are found below the jawbone.

There are also hundreds of small (minor) salivary glands lining parts of the mouth, nose, and larynx that can be seen only with a microscope. Most small salivary gland tumors begin in the palate (roof of the mouth).

More than half of all salivary gland tumors are benign (not cancerous) and do not spread to other tissues.

Salivary gland cancer is a type of head and neck cancer.

What are the symptoms for salivary gland cancer?

Salivary gland swelling symptom was found in the salivary gland cancer condition

Having a lump or an area of Swelling near your salivary gland is the most common sign of a salivary gland tumor, but it doesn't mean you have cancer. Most salivary gland tumors are noncancerous (benign). Many other noncancerous conditions may lead to a swollen salivary gland, including an infection or a stone in a salivary gland duct.

What are the causes for salivary gland cancer?

Salivary gland tumors are rare. Their cause isn't clear.

Salivary gland tumors begin when some cells in a salivary gland develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. A cell's DNA contains the instructions that tell a cell what to do.

The changes tell the cells to grow and divide rapidly. The abnormal cells go on living when healthy cells would die. The accumulating cells form a tumor.

If additional changes happen in the DNA, the abnormal cells may become cancerous. Cancer cells can invade and destroy nearby tissue. They can also break away from the tumor and spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body.

Types of salivary gland tumors

Many different types of salivary gland tumors exist. Doctors classify salivary gland tumors based on the type of cells involved in the tumors. Knowing the type of salivary gland tumor you have helps your doctor determine which treatment options are best for you.

Types of noncancerous (benign) salivary gland tumors include:

  • Pleomorphic adenoma
  • Basal cell adenoma
  • Canalicular adenoma
  • Oncocytoma
  • Warthin tumor

Types of cancerous (malignant) salivary gland tumors include:

  • Acinic cell carcinoma
  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Adenoid cystic carcinoma
  • Clear cell carcinoma
  • Malignant mixed tumor
  • Mucoepidermoid carcinoma
  • Oncocytic carcinoma
  • Polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma
  • Salivary duct carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • What are the treatments for salivary gland cancer?

    The treatment options and prognosis (chance of recovery) depend on the following:

    • The stage of the cancer (especially the size of the tumor).
    • The type of salivary gland the cancer is in.
    • The type of cancer cells (how they look under a microscope).
    • The patient's age and general health.

    What are the risk factors for salivary gland cancer?

    Factors that may increase your risk of salivary gland tumors include:

    • Older age. Though salivary gland tumors can occur at any age, they most commonly occur in older adults.
    • Radiation exposure. Radiation treatments for cancer, such as radiation used to treat head and neck cancers, may increase the risk of salivary gland tumors.
    • Workplace exposure to certain substances. People who work with certain substances may have an increased risk of salivary gland tumors. Jobs associated with salivary gland tumors include those involved in rubber manufacturing, asbestos mining and plumbing.

    Video related to salivary gland cancer