What is salivary gland cancer?

Salivary gland cancer is a rare cancer that occurs in the glands in your mouth, neck and throat that produce saliva. You have three pairs of main salivary glands:

  • The parotid glands, on each side of the face in front of the ears
  • The submandibular glands, at the back of the jaw under the tongue
  • The sublingual glands, on the floor of the mouth under the tongue

Most salivary gland cancers start in the parotid glands. Because salivary glands have several different types of cells that can become cancerous, there are many different types of salivary gland tumors. Some types grow more rapidly than others. Symptoms of salivary gland cancer include:

  • A lump or swelling in your face, neck or mouth
  • Pain in one spot in your face, neck or mouth
  • One side of your face seems larger than the other
  • Numbness in part of your face
  • Muscle weakness on one side of your face
  • Trouble swallowing

Salivary gland tumors are usually surgically removed, after which you're treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy if needed. When caught in the early stages, the survival rate for salivary gland cancer is high.

Salivary gland cancer is an uncommon cancer. It is associated with the salivary glands of the body. This cancer develops as abnormal, cancerous cells are created in any of these salivary glands. Salivary glands are found in the mouth, lips, cheeks, neck or throat. When this rare disease does occur, it most commonly affects the parotid glands. These glands are on a person's face right by their ears.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.