Salivary gland cancer


Salivary gland cancer is a rare type of head and neck cancer that develops due to the abnormal growth of salivary gland cells. These cells continue to grow uncontrollably, forming a tumor that can be both benign or cancerous.

Age and higher exposure to cancer causing cells are the most common cause of this type of cancer. Family history of salivary gland cancer and radiation therapy used to remove any kind of head and neck cancer may also play vital role in causing it.

Signs and symptoms

A person diagnosed with cancer of the salivary glands may experience painless lumps in the ear, lips, jaw or mouth area. Fluid draining from the ear, trouble opening the mouth, difficulty in swallowing, weakness and numbness on the face are few symptoms.


Certain physical and imaging tests are performed by doctors to discover the cancer, which include MRI, CT scans, PET scans, endoscopy and ultrasound. A biopsy of tissue is also used to see if the cells are cancerous. This also helps the doctors find out if the cancer has spread to other regions as well such as the lymph nodes or any other part of the body.

Treatment of Salivary Gland Cancer

Treatment of any kind of cancer involves a number of methods, which can be used depending on the patient’s health condition and severity of the tumor. If the cancer is in stage I or II, means not larger than 4 cm, the patient then has higher chances of survival while the same cannot be said if it is in stage III or IV where the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or even further. Treatment options for salivary gland cancer are:

  • Surgery: Surgery is one of the best treatment for salivary gland cancer and is recommended for everyone diagnosed with it. It involves the removal of the tumor and surrounding tissues known as margin. There are many types of surgery used to cure this cancer, which are Parotidectomy where parotid gland is removed, endoscopic surgery, a safer option than the conventional type, neck dissection, where the lymph nodes are removed and reconstructive surgery also known as plastic surgery where tissues and nerves are replaced with new ones.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy involves the usage of anti-cancer drugs that stops the cancer cells from further growth. The systematic chemotherapy mixes with bloodstream and reaches every part of the body where the cancer has spread.
  • Radiation therapy: High energy radiation beams are aimed to the affected region in this procedure to completely eliminate the cancer cells. It is performed by a radiation oncologist and takes a specific period of time. Sometimes, radiation therapy is used in combination with chemotherapy for enhanced results.


Cancer treatment involves several complications to the patient, which usually go away with time and a little care. The side effects usually depend on the kind of treatment method used which usually involves weakness, headaches, vomiting, nausea, mouth sores, dryness in the mouth, numbness around mouth area, feeling sick and hair loss.

Post operative care

After the treatment, the patient needs to look for any signs and symptoms that shows recurrence. Speak with your doctor if you do experience them.

Regular visits will be required where necessary check ups may be done, which are physical tests, CT scans, ultrasound, x-rays, dental check up and blood test.