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Salivary gland tumors

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Salivary gland tumors are abnormal cells growing in the tubes (ducts) that drain the salivary glands or the gland itself.

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Causes
The salivary glands are located around the mouth. They produce saliva, which moistens food to help with chewing and swallowing.

There are three main pairs of salivary glands. The parotid glands are the largest. They are located in each cheek above the jaw in front of the ears. Two submandibular glands are at the back of the mouth. They are on both sides of the jaw. Two sublingual glands are under the floor of the mouth. There are also thousands of small salivary glands around 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, especially in children. 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).

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:
Treatment
Surgery is usually done to remove the affected salivary gland. If the tumor is benign, no other treatment is needed.

Radiation therapy or extensive surgery may be needed if the tumor is cancerous. Chemotherapy may be used when the disease has spread beyond the salivary glands.

Outlook (Prognosis)
Most salivary gland tumors are noncancerous and slow growing. Removing the tumor with surgery usually cures the condition. In rare cases, the tumor is cancerous and further treatment is needed.

When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if:
Alternative Names
Tumor - salivary duct

References
Calzada GG, Hanna EY. Benign neoplasms of the salivary glands. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund VJ, et al., eds. Cummings Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery . 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2010:chap 87.

National Cancer Institute: PDQ Salivary Gland Cancer Treatment. Bethesda, Md: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified: July 20, 2012. Available at: http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/salivarygland/HealthProfessional. Accessed: February 3, 2014.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines): Head and neck cancers. Version 2.2013. Available at: http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/head-and-neck.pdf. Accessed: February 3, 2014.

Update Date: 2/3/2014
Ashutosh Kacker, MD, FACS, Professor of Clinical Otolaryngology, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Attending Otolaryngologist, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. 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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