There are treatments for all patients with cancer of the salivary gland. Three
kinds of treatment are used:
Surgery is often used to remove cancers of the salivary gland. Depending on
where the cancer is and how far it has spread, a doctor may need to cut out
tissue around the cancer. If cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the neck, the
lymph nodes may be removed (lymph node dissection).
Radiation therapy is also a common treatment of cancer of the salivary gland.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink
tumors.Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external radiation
therapy) or from putting materials that produce radiation (radioisotopes)
through thin plastic tubes in the area where the cancer cells are found
(internal radiation therapy).
Specialized types of radiation have been shown to be effective in treating some salivary gland tumors. Fast-neutron beam radiation is a type of radiation therapy that uses tiny
particles called neutrons. Photon-beam radiation therapy reaches deep tumors with high-energy light. Along with radiation therapy, the use of drugs to make
cancer cells more sensitive to radiation (radiosensitization) is being tested
in clinical trials.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken by
pill, or it may be put into the body by a needle in a vein or muscle.
Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the drug enters the
bloodstream, travels through the body, and can kill cancer cells throughout the
body. Chemotherapy for cancer of the salivary gland is still being tested in
Because the salivary glands help digest food and are close to the jaw, a
patient may need special help adjusting to the side effects of the cancer
and its treatment. A doctor will consult with several kinds of doctors who can
help determine the best treatment. Trained medical staff can also help in
recovery from treatment. Plastic surgery may be needed if a large amount of
tissue or bone around the salivary glands is taken out.
Treatment of cancer of the salivary gland depends on where the cancer is, the
stage of the disease, and the patient’s age and overall health.
Standard treatment may be considered because of its effectiveness in patients
in past studies, or participation in a clinical trial may be considered. Not
all patients are cured with standard therapy and some standard treatments may
have more side effects than are desired. For these reasons, clinical trials
are designed to find better ways to treat cancer patients and are based on the
most up-to-date information. Clinical trials are ongoing in some parts of the
country for patients with cancer of the salivary gland. To learn more about
clinical trials, call the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER
(1-800-422-6237); TTY at 1-800-332-8615.
© Copyright 1996 - 2013 H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute