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Salivary Gland Cancer


Bradley A. Schiff

, MD, Montefiore Medical Center, The University Hospital of Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Last full review/revision Jan 2021| Content last modified Jan 2021
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Topic Resources

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 Noncancerous mouth growths . 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

Locating the Major Salivary Glands

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

  • Biopsy

  • 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 Computed Tomography (CT) 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 Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) , 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

More Information

The following English-language resource may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of this resource.

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Which structure found along the sides of the throat (towards the back of the mouth) helps prevent infection? 
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