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Photomicrograph of adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare type of cancer that usually occurs in salivary glands but can also appear in other locations such as the bronchus of the lungs, as in this case. (Source: Shutterstock)

Salivary Gland Cancer


Definition of salivary gland cancer


Salivary gland cancer is a disease of a salivary gland. Currently approximately one per 100,000 people per year gets this type of cancer. The tumours in the salivary glands in three-quarters of the cases are benign tumours, and malignancies in a quarter of cases.

Referring to the saliva-secreting Parotid gland (Glandula Parotid) approximately 80 percent of tumours are benign, and 20 percent are malignant. The most common benign tumour of the salivary gland is the Pleomorphic  adenoma. The second most common benign tumour is the Warthin tumour (Zystadenolymphoma). Other benign tumours are very rare.

There are a number of subtypes of malignant tumours which are identified on the basis of their histologic features:

  • mucoepidermoid carcinomas

  • adenoid cystic carcinoma

  • adenocarcinomas

  • acinus carcinoma

  • squamous cell carcinoma 


Metastases of other tumours in the area of the salivary glands, are the most common tumours in addition to a number of rare malignant tumours.

Diagnosis of salivary gland cancer


Malignant tumours of the salivary glands must be taken very seriously since these tumours frequently lead to the settlement of metastases in the soft tissues of the neck.​

A functional check of the facial nerves and scanning the area are the first steps to diagnosis, which must be confirmed with an ultrasound. A biopsy is not always an accurate assessment. A differential diagnosis to identify non-epithelial malignancies, benign tumours, and the metastases of other primary tumours is needed in order to clarify the diagnosis.

Therapies for salivary gland cancer

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