Salivary gland cancer is rare cancer that occurs in the salivary glands. These glands are responsible for producing saliva. Your salivary glands are located in various places around the face, neck, chin, and mouth. Cancerous tumors may develop at any of these points. Non-cancerous (benign) tumors are also possible in the same areas. You can continue reading our article for salivary gland cancer symptoms, causes of salivary gland cancer, and treatment.
Salivary gland cancer
Salivary glands are a series of glands and ducts or tubes that carry saliva to your mouth, neck, and sinuses. They keep the inside of your mouth and sinuses oily and moist. Saliva is a clear liquid filled with enzymes that break down food. It also retains antibodies and other substances that protect the mouth and throat from infection. Salivary gland cancer occurs when irregular cells form in the tissues of the salivary glands or in the ducts connected to the glands. The salivary gland system consists of two main types: major salivary glands and small salivary glands. The major salivary glands are further divided into three types:
- Parotid glands. These are the largest salivary glands. They are located just in front of the ears. About 80 percent of salivary gland tumors are found in these glands. Most of the tumors found here are benign.
- Sublingual glands. These are the smallest of the major salivary glands. They are located on the floor of the mouth and near the tongue.
- Tumors in these glands are rare, but the risk of a tumor in this gland being malignant is 40 percent.
- Submandibular glands. These glands are located under the chin. They secrete saliva under the tongue. Roughly 10 to 20 percent of salivary gland tumors start here, and about 90 percent are malignant.
Salivary gland cancer symptoms
Symptoms of a salivary gland tumor can appear wherever your salivary gland is. However, most of the symptoms are similar, regardless of which type of salivary gland is affected. The most common symptoms of salivary gland cancer include:
- a lump or swollen area in your mouth, chin, cheek, or neck
- an ulcerated mass in the mouth
- constant pain in your mouth, jaw, cheek, neck, or ear
- a noticeable difference in size on the sides of your face or neck
- difficulty opening mouth wide
- numbness in your mouth or jaw
- muscle weakness on one side of your face
- difficulty swallowing (late symptom)
Salivary gland cancer stages it can be divided into five stages. These are:
- Stage 0: At this stage, the cancer is “in situ”. This means it stays in the same place and does not spread to nearby tissues. This stage of cancer is typically highly treatable.
- Stage 1: Stage 1 tumors are small (2 centimeters or less) and have not grown into nearby tissue or lymph nodes.
- Stage 2: Stage 2 tumors are larger than 2 cm but smaller than 4 cm and have not spread to other structures or lymph nodes.
- Stage 3: If the tumor is larger than 4 cm and/or has spread to the surrounding soft tissues or lymph nodes, it is considered as the 3rd stage.
- Stage 4: This advanced stage cancer has metastasized or spread to other organs or parts of the body.
It is given in degrees in addition to cancer stages. Doctors and healthcare professionals typically assign salivary gland cancer a “grade” in addition to a stage. These degrees range from 1 to 3 or from low to high. The degrees depend on the tumor type and how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope. The biopsy helps your doctor decide the note. The following grades are used for salivary gland cancer:
Grade: This low-grade cancer is well defined from nearby cells. It looks almost normal under the microscope. It also tends to grow slowly and has a better prognosis than other classes.
Grade: This intermediate cancer grade indicates that the cancer is moderately advanced. It has an appearance between 1st and 3rd grades.
Grade: A cancer of this class is very difficult to recognize from normal cells. This indicates that cancer can grow and spread rapidly. The prognosis for salivary gland cancer grade 3 is not as good as low grades.
Salivary gland cancer treatment
it accounts for only six percent of head and neck cancers. For this reason, it is important to seek a team of doctors who are experts in the treatment of head and neck cancer or salivary gland cancer. Treatment is determined by the extent of cancer and whether it has spread (metastasized) beyond the salivary glands.
Fast-growing, high-grade cancers can be treated more aggressively with both surgery and radiation or chemotherapy. Low-grade cancers may not be handled aggressively because of how slowly they grow. The combination of treatments may include:
- This is often the primary treatment for salivary gland cancer. A surgeon can remove cancer and surrounding glands, tissues, or lymph nodes.
- Radiation therapy. This treatment uses high-energy X-rays or particles to narrowly target and destroy cancer cells. This can either be the primary treatment or it can be used with another treatment option.
- These anti-cancer drugs that seek and kill cancer cells in the body are not often used to treat salivary gland cancers; surgery and radiation therapy are more common.
It is important to discuss all treatment options with your doctor to determine what works best for you.