Salivary Gland Cancer

Know More About Salivary Gland Cancer

Salivary glands are an essential part of the body as they play an important role in the process of digestion. These are responsible for keeping the mouth moist and help in swallowing the food with ease. There are three pairs of salivary glands namely sublingual, parotid, and submandibular. The growth of abnormal cells in the glands may transform into tumors leading to salivary gland cancer. Usually, the cells are benign but can turn into cancerous ones as well. The most common type of cancer occurs in the parotid glands. The occurrence of tumors in salivary glands is rare though.

Cause of salivary gland cancer

  • The reason behind the development of tumor cells in the salivary glands is not clever yet. The general base for their build-up is known to be the mutations in the DNA in the cells present in the salivary glands. The DNA directs the division of cells and ultimately leads to accumulation.
  • The proliferation of cells exerts pressure on the adjacent cells and leads to their invasion and destruction. th e cancer cells also hold the potential to move away from the main area and attack other body organs. This phenomenon is termed metastasis.
  • Though there is not a particular age for the development of salivary gland cancer but as per the pattern observed, it usually occurs in older adults.
  • Apart from this, patients who are undergoing cancer treatments like radiation therapy for head and neck cancer become vulnerable to the development of salivary gland cancer.
  • Exposure to certain substances can also cause salivary gland tumors. The most common work fields that might lead to its formation are asbestos mining and plumbing, and rubber manufacturing.

Types of salivary gland cancer

The salivary gland is composed of different types of cells. Based on the origin of the cancer cells, the types of salivary gland cancer are defined. After the diagnosis, the doctor also determines if the tumor is fast-growing, that is, high-grade cancer, or slow-growing, that is, low-grade cancer.

Mucoepidermoid Carcinoma

It is the most common type of cancer that is primarily included under the low-grade category. It might develop into high-grade cancer at times. In this type of cancer, the cancer cells are formed of mucus-filled cysts. Forming in parotid glands, they can also move to submandibular and other types of salivary glands. This type of cancer is usually determined by ear drainage, facial paralysis, difficulty in opening the mouth, and swallowing.

Acinic Cell Adenocarcinoma

As the name implies, this type of cancer develops in the acinar cells responsible for producing the saliva. This type of cancer is more common in women than men. These cancer cells develop in the parotid gland and are generally associated with pain. These are low-grade tumor cells.

Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma

There are several tiny salivary glands located in the mouth other than the major three. The adenoid cystic carcinoma is the most common cancer occurring in such glands. Despite being slow-growing, they can be highly lethal. The major area of their growth is the nerves which cause swelling around the mouth, pain, and even facial paralysis.

Adenocarcinoma or NOS (Not Otherwise Specified)

This type of cancer is not classified into any category as it may occur either in minor or major salivary glands. It is identified by the formation of a painless lump.

Polymorphous Adenocarcinoma

After adenoid cystic carcinoma, polymorphous adenocarcinoma is the most commonly formed cancer in the minor salivary glands. They are a rare occurrence and usually slow-growing. These cancer cells exhibit varied growth patterns when viewed under the microscope.

Several other types include cancers like basal cell adenocarcinoma, carcinosarcoma, salivary duct carcinoma, secretory carcinoma, myoepithelial carcinoma, oncocytic carcinoma, lymphomas, squamous cell carcinoma, cystadenocarcinoma, lymphomas, and many more
Some of the common types of benign tumors are:

Warthin’s Tumor

The occurrence of Warthin’s Tumor has been linked with radiation exposure and individuals who have been involved in smoking for a long time. The rate of occurrence is high in women than in men. It develops in the parotid gland and forms a benign lump.

Pleomorphic Adenoma

Adenoma refers to a non-cancerous lump and pleomorphic stands for difference in the size and shape of the individual cancer cells or those in a group. It is a common type of cancer in the salivary glands.

Secondary Salivary Gland Cancer

This type of cancer refers to the condition where cancer develops in other parts of the body and then spreads to the salivary glands. Generally, the tumor cells occurring in the neck and head reach the parotid or submandibular salivary glands through the lymphatic system. Other body organs that might lead to such a situation include the lungs, breasts, and kidneys.

Other types of benign tumors include basal cell adenoma, canalicular adenoma, and oncocytoma

Signs and Symptoms

Some of the major and common symptoms experienced by patients suffering from salivary gland cancer are:

  • There could be swelling or the formation of a lump in the neck, mouth, or near the jaw. The supporting muscles on either side of the face may undergo weakening.
  • Numbness can be experienced in some parts of the face along with difficulty in swallowing food and opening the mouth.
  • The location of salivary glands may experience constant pain.


A number of salivary glands cancer situations are detected using varied methods. These include :

Physical Examination

This type of examination involves the doctor checking the patient’s neck, mouth, and throat to see if any lumps or swelling can be felt or observed.

Collection of samples

The sample collection procedures involve things like biopsy. It involves inserting a fine needle into the salivary glands to extract some cells or tissues for lab testing. It helps to analyze if the cells are cancerous or not.

Imaging Tests

The imaging tests are of various types including positron emission tomography (PET), computerized tomography (CT), X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or ultrasound. These tests provide you with detailed images of the internal body organs that help the doctors to determine the size, location, and types of cancer.


This diagnostic test is used to identify the tiny cancerous cells that might go unnoticed and can later transform into cancerous cells. It is a minimally invasive procedure that is very often performed to detect salivary gland cancer.

Based on the diagnosis, the doctor will determine the severity of the disease and the kind of treatment that needs to be administered.

What could be the side-effects of these procedures?

  • During the surgical procedures, there could be cutting or stretching of the facial nerves that may cause partial or total loss of sensation. Facial droop can be experienced on a temporary and permanent basis. There could be an interruption in the functioning of the nerve that ensures facial movements.
  • Often, the radiation therapies performed lead to the development of certain side effects like blurry vision, headache, fatigue, hair loss, skin issues, problem in focusing, and nausea and vomiting.
  • With the increasing number of chemotherapy sessions till they get completed, the patients may start feeling weak, experience infections, loss of appetite, sore mouth, hair loss, and tiredness. There could be bruising or bleeding issues, intense chills, and headaches occurring frequently.

Treatment of salivary gland cancer

The treatments for salivary gland cancer are many that can be applied individually or through certain combinations.


Surgery is the most commonly done treatment to help deal with the cancerous condition. The doctors might eliminate the tumor if it is small in size along with some healthy surrounding tissues. In case of large tumors, the entire salivary gland can be removed accompanied by facial skin, ducts, and nerves if affected.
If the tumor is found to be cancerous, the surgeons will focus on removing some lymph nodes to avoid spreading the tumor. In addition to this, the chances of getting reconstructive surgery are also increased. It involves working on areas like skin, bone, and nerves to enhance the functions like swallowing, chewing, speaking, or breathing.


Chemotherapy is a procedure that may or may not be administered individually. Usually, the drugs are given in combination alongside the main treatment. The chemicals involved are responsible for destroying the tumor cells.

Radiation Therapy

The two basic elements of radiation therapy are protons and X-rays. These are parts of high-energy beams that are made to target the tumor cells. The patient is laid down on the platform and the machine moves around targeting the cancer cells.
The advancements in the medical field are extending to the use of neutrons as well. However, the process has not been widely accepted till now. Research is going on to find out the possible pros and cons of this project.

Palliative Care

This part of the treatment focuses on providing the patient with aftercare and providing relief from pain and discomfort. It is done with ongoing treatments to help patients feel better and improve their quality of life.

How Karma Ayurveda can cure you?

Karma Ayurveda has set itself as an example for the field of medicine by providing the safest and most effective measures of treatment. It focuses on rejuvenating, regenerating, and regrowth of the body. The most common;y used therapies in Ayurveda are Panchakarma, Swedana, Abhyanga, and much more. The practice of Ayurveda is primarily based on the methods of prevention and treatment.

The traditional medicines work slowly on the human body and aim to improve the overall body functioning. It helps an individual to understand and handle the body’s physical, emotional, and mental qualities. It is highly healing and brings back the body’s equilibrium. The doctors are highly educated and experienced which provides patients with an extra edge over the others. Believing in Ayurveda is simply perfect as restores both health and faith i traditional and oldest forms of medicine.

Why choose Ayurveda?

Ayurveda has been serving as a rich source of herbal medicines and drugs. It focuses on destroying the diseases from the root. It includes factors like vitta, patta, and Kapha. Any kind of imbalance between these factors leads to disturbances in the body. Out of these three ‘doshas’, the dominant factor in the body comes from genetics. It is a complete system in itself that promotes a healthy and comfortable life. It has the ability to cure several diseases from a base that many modern forms of medicine cannot.

It is composed of five elements like Vayu, Teja, Prithvi, Aakash, and Jala. it seeks to maintain a balance between mind, body, and spirit. It emphasizes the use of techniques like meditation, exercises, yoga, herbal remedies, diets, and other physical therapies. To deal with salivary gland cancer, Ayurveda might use Arogyavardhini Vati and Punarnavadi Guggulu.