This type of cancer can occur in any of the salivary glands located below the tongue, in the cheek area in front of the ears, at the upper jaw along the teeth, or below the jawbone. The three major pairs of glands are called the parotid, the sublingual and the submandibular glands.
People typically first notice a problem because of a lump on the face, neck or mouth, numbness of the face, or fluid draining from the ear. There are also a number of other symptoms associated with this type of cancer. Remember that the symptoms you experience might also be caused by other medical conditions so it is important for you to consult a physician to confirm a diagnosis.
It’s normal for you to wonder how you got cancer of the salivary glands. Although we still don’t have all the answers, we do know that there are risk factors associated with people developing this cancer, especially previous exposure to radiation treatment for head and neck cancer, age, and certain environmental exposures. Remember that there is no single cause for developing this type of cancer.
Screening and Diagnosis
You may need to undergo a number of tests for the screening and diagnosis, which will help your team to assess the stage, or severity of the cancer. Your head and neck specialist will first perform a physical examination to look for signs and symptoms of cancer, and then may order one or more of the most commonly used tests such endoscopy, x-rays, and MRI.
Learn about some of the other tests commonly used for head and neck cancers
Cancers of the hypopharynx are biologically aggressive and have more ability to spread than other types of head and neck cancer. Because most hypopharyngeal tumors grow in a silent fashion without presenting noticeable symptoms, they are often quite large by the time the patient is first seen.
Early and Late Stage Salivary Gland Cancer
Preparing for Your Surgery
During Your Surgery
Follow-up care for cancer of the salivary glands is critical and you will need to see your physician on a regular basis. You may also need ongoing therapy for speaking and swallowing problems.
Many members of the multidisciplinary treatment team will work with you through this challenging process, and can offer continuing care and guidance about the services and resources that may be of assistance during your recovery or palliative care.