Salivary gland cancer is a rare kind of cancer that starts in the salivary glands.
Salivary gland cancer can start in any of the salivary glands in your mouth, neck or throat. Salivary glands make saliva, which helps in digestion, keeps your mouth moist and supports healthy teeth.
You have three pairs of major salivary glands under and behind your jaw — parotid, sublingual and submandibular. Many other tiny salivary glands are in your lips, inside your cheeks, and throughout your mouth and throat.
READ ALSO:WHAT IS COLON CANCER
Salivary gland cancer most commonly happens in the parotid gland, which is just in front of the ear.
Treatment for salivary gland cancer often involves surgery. Other treatments for salivary gland cancer may be inclusive radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Signs and symptoms of salivary gland cancer can include:
- A lump or swelling on or close to your jaw or in your neck or mouth
- Numbness in part of your face
- Muscle weakness on one side of your face
- Persistent pain in the area of a salivary gland
- Difficulty swallowing
- Problems opening your mouth widely
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that disturb you.
Having a lump or area of swelling near your salivary gland is the most common symptom of a salivary gland tumor, but it doesn’t mean you have cancer. Most salivary gland tumors are noncancerous (benign). Many other noncancerous conditions may result in a swollen salivary gland, including an infection or a stone in a salivary gland duct.
It’s not very clear what causes salivary gland cancer.
Doctors know salivary gland cancer happens when some cells in a salivary gland develop mutations in their DNA. The mutations lets the cells to grow and divide rapidly. The mutated cells continue living when other cells would die. The accumulating cells form a tumor that can invade nearby tissue. Cancerous cells can break off and spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body.
Types of salivary gland cancer
Many different kinds of salivary gland cancer exist. Doctors classify salivary gland cancer based on the type of cells involved in the tumor. The type of salivary gland cancer you have helps your doctor determine which treatment options are best for you.
READ ALSO:WHAT IS PROSTATE CANCER
Kinds of salivary gland cancer include:
- Acinic cell carcinoma
- Adenoid cystic carcinoma
- Clear cell carcinoma
- Malignant mixed tumor
- Mucoepidermoid carcinoma
- Oncocytic carcinoma
- Polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma
- Salivary duct carcinoma
- Squamous cell carcinoma
Factors that may increase your risk of salivary gland cancer are inclusive of:
- Older age.Though it can happen at any age, salivary gland cancer is most commonly diagnosed in older adults.
- Radiation exposure.Radiation, such as radiation used to treat head and neck cancers, increases the risk of salivary gland cancer.
- Workplace exposure to certain substances.People who work with certain substances may also have an increased risk of salivary gland cancer. Jobs associated with salivary gland cancer include those involved in rubber manufacturing, asbestos mining and plumbing.