Salivary gland cancer

Salivary gland cancer is a rare form of cancer that begins in the salivary glands. Salivary gland cancer can begin in any of the salivary glands in your mouth, neck or throat.

Salivary glands make saliva, which aids in digestion and keeps your mouth moist. You have three pairs of major salivary glands under and behind your jaw — parotid, sublingual and submandibular. Many other tiny salivary glands are in your lips, inside your cheeks, and throughout your mouth and throat.

Salivary gland cancer most commonly occurs in the parotid gland, which is just in front of the ear.

Treatment for salivary gland cancer often involves surgery. Other treatments for salivary gland cancer may include radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors

Signs and symptoms of salivary gland cancer may include:

  • A lump or swelling on or near your jaw or in your neck or mouth
  • Numbness in part of your face
  • Muscle weakness on one side of your face
  • Persistent pain in the area of a salivary gland
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Trouble opening your mouth widely

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you.

Having a lump or area of swelling near your salivary gland is a common sign of a salivary gland tumor, but it doesn't mean you have cancer. Most salivary gland tumors are noncancerous (benign).

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