What is Acinic Cell Carcinoma?

Article Details
  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 14 July 2019
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Acinic cell carcinoma is a malignant condition that affects the salivary glands. Tumors associated with acinic cell carcinoma are usually slow to mature and present a variety of symptoms. Treatment for this rare form of cancer generally involves surgery and the administration of chemo and radiation therapies.

There is no known cause for the abnormal cell development associated with acinic cell carcinoma. Affecting the parotid glands located on either side of the face, this type of salivary gland cancer develops when the secretory cells mutate and accumulate to form a tumor. It has been asserted that individuals who have been exposed to radiation or environmental toxins in the workplace may be at an increased risk for developing acinic cell carcinoma.

Individuals who develop this form of salivary cancer may experience a variety of signs and symptoms. Initially, some may notice the formation of a lump along their jaw line or on their neck. Others may experience facial numbness or jaw discomfort. Additional symptoms may include an inability to fully open one’s mouth or problems swallowing.


There are a variety of diagnostic procedures that may be utilized to confirm a diagnosis of acinic cell carcinoma. Following an initial, physical examination, an individual will usually undergo additional testing and a biopsy. Imaging tests administered to evaluate the condition of the jaw, head, and neck area may include a computerized tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Once imaging tests are completed, a sample of the affected tissue may be taken in a procedure known as a biopsy. If a diagnosis of cancer is made, the extent, or staging, of the cancer is then determined.

Tumors that remain confined to the affected area are considered noninvasive and are given a staging of one. Carcinomas that are larger in size and are more aggressive to the immediate tissues may be given a staging of two or three depending on their maturity. More advanced cancers that have become invasive to other parts of the body, such as having spread to the surrounding lymph nodes and other organs, are assigned a staging of four.

Treatment for acinic cell carcinoma generally begins with surgery to remove the affected salivary tissue. Depending on the extent of the tumor's development, some individuals may require the removal of the entire salivary gland and, possibly, the surrounding lymph nodes in the neck. Those who undergo extensive surgery to remove their cancer may need reconstructive surgery to restore functionality to the affected area, including the restoration of nerve and muscle function.

Following surgery, chemo and radiation therapies may be utilized to eliminate any residual cancerous cells. Chemotherapy involves the oral or intravenous administration of anticancer drugs to target and eliminate cancerous cells. Though it is not regularly used to treat acinic cell carcinomas, individuals with advanced salivary cancers that have metastasized may receive chemotherapy. Side effects associated with the use of chemotherapy include nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Radiation therapy utilizes highly concentrated energy waves to target and eradicate malignant cells and may induce irritation or inflammation at the administration site and fatigue.



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