Cancers of the salivary glands are much less common than noncancerous growths Noncancerous mouth growths Growths can originate in any type of tissue in and around the mouth, including connective tissues, bone, muscle, and nerve. Growths most commonly form on the Lips Sides of the tongue Floor of... read more . The most common salivary gland cancer is mucoepidermoid carcinoma, which can form in a small (minor) salivary gland on the roof of the mouth or as a lump in one of the large (major) salivary glands, either under or behind the lower jaw.
Locating the Major Salivary Glands
(See also Overview of Mouth, Nose, and Throat Cancers Overview of Mouth, Nose, and Throat Cancers Cancers of the mouth, nose, and throat develop in almost 65,000 people in the United States each year. These cancers are more common among men because male smokers continue to outnumber female... read more .)
Symptoms of Salivary Gland Cancer
Most salivary gland cancer begins as a painless mass. When a tumor grows and becomes painful, the pain may be worsened by food, which stimulates the secretion of saliva. If a tumor invades nearby nerves, people may have numbness or tingling of part of their face, or trouble moving their face.
Diagnosis of Salivary Gland Cancer
Imaging tests for staging
Doctors do a biopsy (removal of a tissue specimen for examination under a microscope) of any salivary gland they suspect may be cancerous. If the biopsy shows cancer, doctors then do imaging tests, such as computed tomography (CT) Computed Tomography (CT) In computed tomography (CT), which used to be called computed axial tomography (CAT), an x-ray source and x-ray detector rotate around a person. In modern scanners, the x-ray detector usually... read more and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) In magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a strong magnetic field and very high frequency radio waves are used to produce highly detailed images. MRI does not use x-rays and is usually very safe... read more , to see the extent of the cancer. Because some salivary gland cancers can spread widely, doctors may also do imaging tests of the lungs, liver, bones, and brain.
Treatment of Salivary Gland Cancer
Most salivary gland cancers are treated with surgery Surgery for Cancer Surgery is a traditional form of cancer treatment. It is the most effective in eliminating most types of cancer before it has spread to lymph nodes or distant sites (metastasized). Surgery may... read more followed by radiation therapy Radiation Therapy for Cancer Radiation is a form of intense energy generated by a radioactive substance, such as cobalt, or by specialized equipment, such as an atomic particle (linear) accelerator. Radiation preferentially... read more when needed. Doctors try to avoid damaging the facial nerve during surgery.
The following English-language resource may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of this resource.
American Cancer Society: Salivary gland cancer