What is Salivary Gland Cancer?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 January 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
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Salivary gland cancer is a very rare form of cancer which originates in the salivary glands which line the mouth. Most of the tumors which occur in or around the salivary glands are benign, but occasionally they can be malignant, causing a patient to develop salivary gland cancer. The prognosis for patients with this cancer can be quite excellent if it is caught in the early stages and the treatment provided is appropriate.

The symptoms of salivary gland cancer include swelling and noticeable changes in the face, along with numbness of the face, difficulty swallowing, or difficulty speaking. A doctor can examine the patient and use various medical imaging studies to look at the salivary glands for signs of abnormalities. A sialogram, an x-ray of the salivary glands and related areas, is a common diagnostic tool, and patients may also be given MRIs, CT scans, and other procedures so that the doctor can get a complete image of the cancer. Biopsies can also be used to learn more about the cancerous growth.


Treatment usually starts with removal of the tumor. If the tumor is small, surgery may be all that is required. Larger tumors may require reconstructive surgery in cases where it is necessary for the surgeon to remove surrounding bone or tissue, and the patient may need speech therapy and physical therapy to adjust after the surgery. Biopsy or removal of the neighboring lymph nodes may also be included in treatment if there are fears that the cancer has spread.

Radiation treatment can also help with salivary gland cancer. Radiation will kill rogue cells which were not successfully removed by the surgeon, and it can prevent the recurrence of the cancer. The primary risk of radiation is the increased risk of developing secondary tumors. The benefit of receiving radiation to kill an existing cancer is usually viewed as worth the potential risk of possibly developing a new cancer in the future, and the delivery of radiation is constantly being refined to minimize associated dangers.

People with a family history of salivary gland cancer are more likely to develop it, as are people who use tobacco products or who have been exposed to radiation. While few steps can be taken to reduce the risk of developing this rare cancer, people can increase the possibility of successful treatment by being aware of changes around their heads and necks, and meeting with a doctor if symptoms of salivary gland cancer emerge.



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Post 2

Yes, it's a rare form of cancer, except for tobacco chewers. People who chew tobacco and dip snuff are much more likely to get it than people who don't, unless there's a family history.

A guy I went to high school with got it. He had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine and plastic surgery, the doctors were able to replace the missing jaw bone with bone from his hip, but it was still a major undertaking. He's been cancer-free for 10 years, but said he wouldn't even look at a can of Skoal now, or smoke.

This should be a really good deterrent to people who want to chew or dip. Aside from the disgusting part of it, these are the kinds of things that can happen.

Post 1

Sometimes a blocked salivary gland is mistaken for a tumor. Fortunately, if the gland is only blocked, then it's a fairly simple process to clear it out. A friend had a blocked salivary gland, and the whole side of her face would swell. She said it was painless, but it still looked bad and needed to be taken care of.

She was in the hospital overnight after the surgery and went home the next day. After everything healed up, she was fine and has had no more problems, and that was 30 years ago. So as long as it's benign, it's usually pretty harmless.

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