Salivary gland tumors
Salivary gland tumors are abnormal cells growing in the gland or in the tubes (ducts) that drain the salivary glands.
Tumor - salivary duct
The salivary glands are located around the mouth. They produce saliva, which moistens food to help with chewing and swallowing.
There are 3 main pairs of salivary glands. The parotid glands are the largest. They are located in each cheek in front of the ears. Two submandibular glands are under the floor of the mouth under both sides of the jaw. Two sublingual glands are under the floor of the mouth. There are also thousands of small salivary glands lining the rest of the mouth.
Salivary glands empty saliva into the mouth through ducts that open at various places in the mouth.
Salivary gland tumors are rare. Swelling of the salivary glands is mostly due to:
The most common type of salivary gland tumor is a slow-growing noncancerous (benign) tumor of the parotid gland. The tumor gradually increases the size of the gland. Some of these tumors can be cancerous (malignant).
Symptoms may include any of the following:
Exams and Tests
An examination by a health care provider or dentist shows a larger than normal salivary gland, usually one of the parotid glands.
Tests may include:
Surgery is most often done to remove the affected salivary gland. If the tumor is benign, no other treatment is needed.
Most salivary gland tumors are noncancerous and slow growing. Removing the tumor with surgery often cures the condition. In rare cases, the tumor is cancerous and further treatment is needed.
Complications from the cancer or its treatment may include:
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if:
National Cancer Institute. PDQ salivary gland cancer treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Last modified September 25, 2015. www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/salivarygland/HealthProfessional. Accessed February 22, 2016
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN clinical practice guidelines in oncology (NCCN guidelines): Head and neck cancers. Version 1.2015. www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/head-and-neck.pdf. Accessed February 22, 2016.
Saade RE, Bell DM, Hanna EY. Benign neoplasms of the salivary glands. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 86.
Review Date: 10/30/2015
Reviewed By: Sumana Jothi, MD, specialist in laryngology, Clinical Instructor UCSF Otolaryngology, NCHCS VA, SFVA, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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