Salivary gland cancer may involve two primary glands:
Most cancers of these glands occur as painless lumps, either in front of the ear or under the jaw. Parotid cancers are more common than submandibular cancers. Some lumps can enlarge rapidly or be painful.
Other symptoms may include facial weakness, fixation of the lump, sensory loss, ulceration, difficulty opening the jaw and tongue numbness or weakness.
Surgery is the mainstay of treatment for salivary gland cancers. The extent of surgery depends upon tumor type, size and location. A neck dissection is performed for removal of neck lymph nodes if they harbor tumor spread.
Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, is the use of high-energy rays to damage cancer cells and stop them from growing. Like surgery, radiation therapy is local therapy. It affects only the cells in the treated area. The energy may come from a large machine, or external radiation.
Patients with large tumors may need both surgery and radiation therapy. Radiation therapy is given after surgery for advanced or aggressive tumors.
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.