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. Saliva also helps to protect teeth from decay.
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 hundreds 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 you have any of the following:
Jackson NM, Mitchell JL, Walvekar RR. Inflammatory disorders 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 85.
Markiewicz MR, Fernandes RP, Ord RA. Salivary gland disease. In: Fonseca RJ, ed. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. 3rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2018:chap 20.
National Cancer Institute website. Salivary gland cancer treatment (adult) (PDQ) - health professional version. www.cancer.gov/types/head-and-neck/hp/adult/salivary-gland-treatment-pdq. Updated January 12, 2018. Accessed January 15, 2018.
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 and Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 86.
Review Date: 10/17/2017
Reviewed By: Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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