15 April, 2019
Salivary gland tumour: Causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment
Salivary gland tumours are abnormal cells that grow, either in the salivary gland itself or in the ducts that drain them. Salivary glands are located around the mouth. They produce saliva, which moistens food to help us chew and swallow. Saliva also helps protect teeth from decay. Salivary gland tumours are a rare condition that are usually benign, slow growing and with a good prognosis.
TYPES OF SALIVARY GLAND
There are three main pairs of salivary glands:
- The parotid glands, which are the largest and are located on each cheek in front of the ears.
- Two submandibular glands, which are under the floor of the mouth, on both sides of the jaw.
- Two sublingual glands, located under the floor of the mouth.
Without forgetting that there are also hundreds of small salivary glands covering the rest of the mouth.
CAUSES OF THE ONSET OF A SALIVARY GLAND TUMOUR
Salivary gland tumours are rare. Inflammation of the salivary glands is mainly due to:
- Other cancers
- Stones in the salivary ducts
- Infections of the salivary glands
- Sjögren’s syndrome
The most common type of salivary gland tumour is a benign slow-growing tumour of the parotid gland. The tumour gradually increases the size of the gland. Although it is a rare condition, we need to remain vigilant as some of these tumours can be cancerous.
“The most common type of salivary gland tumour is a benign, slow-growing tumour of the parotid gland”
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF A SALIVARY GLAND TUMOUR?
Symptoms of a salivary gland tumour may include:
- Swelling in one of the salivary glands, which is usually firm and painless (in front of the ears, under the chin or on the floor of the mouth). The swelling gradually increases.
- Difficulty moving one side of the face, which is known as facial nerve palsy.
DIAGNOSING A SALIVARY GLAND TUMOUR
The ear, nose and throat specialist will examine possible inflammation and will usually request some additional tests, such as an MRI and/or a puncture of the lesion. We do not recommend conducting incomplete biopsies of these lesions.
TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR A SALIVARY GLAND TUMOUR
The most common treatment for a salivary gland tumour is surgery to remove the affected salivary gland. If it is a benign tumour, no further treatment is usually needed. In the case of a cancerous tumour, radiotherapy or the use of a more extensive surgery may be required.
During surgery, the facial nerve, which crosses the parotid gland and is responsible for the mobility of the face, is monitored, checking at all times that it has not been affected.
“The most common treatment for a salivary gland tumour is surgery to remove the affected gland”
PROGNOSIS OF A SALIVARY GLAND TUMOUR
Most salivary gland tumours are benign and slow growing. In these cases, the surgical removal of the tumour usually cures the condition, with no further treatment required. However, as we have already mentioned, in rare cases salivary gland tumours can be malignant and additional treatment is needed. The prognosis will depend on the type of tumour and the response to treatment.
“Most salivary gland tumours are benign and slow growing and are usually cured by removing the affected gland”