Cancer of the salivary gland is a disease in which cancer (malignant) cells are
found in the tissues of the salivary glands. The salivary glands make saliva,
the fluid that is released into the mouth to keep it moist and to help dissolve
Major clusters of salivary glands are found below the tongue, on the sides of
the face just in front of the ears, and under the jawbone. Smaller clusters of
salivary glands are found in other parts of the upper digestive tract. The
smaller glands are called the minor salivary glands.
Many growths in the salivary glands do not spread to other tissues and are not
cancer. These tumors are called “benign” tumors and are not usually treated
the same as cancer.
A doctor should be seen if there is a swelling under the chin or around the
jawbone, the face becomes numb, muscles in the face cannot move, or there is
pain that does not go away in the face, chin, or neck.
If there are symptoms, a doctor will examine the throat and neck using a mirror
and lights. The doctor may order a special x-ray called a computed tomographic
or CT scan, which uses a computer to make a picture of the inside of parts of
the body. Another type of scan, called a magnetic resonance imaging or MRI
scan, uses magnetic waves to make a picture of the head may also be ordered.
If tissue that is not normal is found, the doctor will need to cut out a small
piece and look at it under the microscope to see if there are any cancer cells.
This is called a biopsy.
The chance of recovery (prognosis) depends on where the cancer is in the
salivary glands, whether the cancer is just in the area where it started or has
spread to other tissues (the stage), how the cancer cells look under a
microscope (the grade), and the patient’s general state of health.
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