Salivary Gland Cancer

What is Salivary Gland Cancer?

The salivary glands are located inside of the mouth. The human mouth has three pairs of salivary glands. These pairs of glands are located:

  • Behind the jaw bone
  • Under your tongue
  • Under the jaw

Even though we depend on three sets of major salivary glands, we also have a lot of little salivary glands in our mouth as well. They are just not large enough to be noticed. These salivary glands are located:

  • In the lips
  • Inside both cheeks
  • Sporadically throughout the mouth
  • In the throat and partially down the esophagus

The most common location for someone to develop Salivary Gland Cancer is behind the jaw. The salivary gland located behind the jaw is called the parotid gland. If you are looking for it, you will find it behind your jaw, but in front of your ear.

It is possible to treat salivary gland cancer, and it is also possible to maintain the symptoms of the cancer as well. The most important factor in helping a patient fight cancer is to ensure they are not in pain, and that they are comfortable with their treatment plan.

What are the Symptoms of Salivary Gland Cancer?

The symptoms of salivary gland cancer can include a lot of different discomforts. The symptoms experienced will depend on your personal health, the exact location of the cancer, and whether it has metastasized to any other location.

The most common symptoms of salivary gland cancer are:

  • A knot, lump, or swelling near or on your jaw.
  • A lump or swelling in on your neck or in your mouth.
  • Weakness of the muscles on one side of your face
  • Salivary gland pain, pain could also be in the general area around the salivary gland
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Difficulty swallowing food
  • Difficulty opening your mouth very wide

Salivary Gland Cancer Causes

Salivary gland cancer is a genetic disease that is caused by genetic disorders. They are many types of genes that when affected cause salivary gland cancer. It includes particular genes called oncogenes. Oncogenes are the genes that control cell production. Another type of gene which controls cell production is called the tumor suppressor gene. When any of these genes are mutated, then salivary gland cancer results.

This means that mutation of these genes cannot be corrected and destruction of foreign infection is no longer possible. Exposure to industrial chemicals can also cause genetic mutation. In most cases, silica dust and nickel allow the chemicals that like to contribute to the genetic mutation that can lead to salivary gland cancer. Another cause could be exposure to the frequent use of dental X-rays and other procedures. Also, the use of tobacco, cellular phones, alcohol consumption, and poor diet may also cause this type of cancer.

How is Salivary Gland Cancer Treated?

The treatment chosen by the doctor for a patient with salivary gland cancer will depend on many factors. These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Type of cancer
  • Size of the tumor
  • Stage of the cancer
  • Patient’s overall health
  • Patient preferences
  • Whether the patient can handle chemotherapy
  • Whether the patient can handle radiation therapy

If the patient is healthy enough to withstand surgery, this will be a serious consideration. There are many different types of surgery to handle salivary gland cancer, including the following:

  • Removing the affected portion of the salivary gland
  • Excising the whole salivary gland
  • Removing the associated lymph node
  • If bone or skin must be removed in order to remove the cancerous tissue, reconstructive surgery is an option.

After the cancerous tissue has been removed, the doctor will most likely recommend chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. This will kill of any of the free floating cancer cells that the surgeon was unable to get during surgery.

Salivary Gland Cancer Prevention

Prevention is an important aspect in reducing the chances of developing salivary gland cancer. Healthy diets and regular exercise will assist people to keep the body healthy and fight any incoming infection. Avoiding tobacco and minimising intake of alcohol can also cut the risk of getting salivary gland cancer.

Also, increasing consumption of fruits that are rich in vitamin C and avoiding food and drinks that contain a lot of cholesterol can be beneficial to the body’s resistance. People who are working in areas that have a high risk of exposure to silica dust, radioactive substances and nickel alloy dust should also wear protective masks and uniforms as recommended. Individuals who are employed in this line of work or who have any symptoms should visit cancer diagnosis centers for frequent checkups so that, in case of any suspicion of the signs of salivary gland cancer, patients can receive early treatment as soon as possible.

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Last Reviewed:
October 10, 2016
Last Updated:
October 31, 2017