Salivary Gland Cancer

About Salivary Gland Cancer

Salivary gland cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the salivary glands present in the oral cavity, neck or throat region. There are three main salivary glands namely parotid, sublingual and submandibular glands. The most commonly involved salivary gland is the parotid gland located in front of the ear. Common symptoms include lump in the affected salivary gland, weakness of the muscle of the face, difficulty in swallowing etc. older people with history of exposure to radiation are at increased risk of suffering from salivary gland cancer. Surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are the different modes of treatment.

Symptoms of Salivary Gland Cancer

In many patients of salivary cancer symptoms may not appear initially rather the condition is incidentally diagnosed during regular dental check-up. However common presenting symptoms include a lump near the jaw or neck region, feeling of numbness in that area, weakness of muscle of face on the affected side, recurrent attacks of pain in the swollen area, swallowing becomes difficult with pain during chewing, speaking and discharge from the ear.

Causes of Salivary Gland Cancer

The salivary glands of the body are responsible for production of saliva. Saliva contains number of digestive enzymes that facilitate proper digestion of food and also there are number of antibodies present in the saliva which are responsible for protection of the oral cavity and the throat against infection.
There are 3 principal salivary glands namely parotid, sublingual and submandibular glands. Parotid glands are the largest salivary glands are located in front and below the ears. Cancer of salivary gland primarily occurs in parotid glands. Sublingual glands are located just underneath the tongue on the floor of the mouth and submandibular glands are located just below the jaw bone. Other than these major salivary glands there are numerous small salivary glands located in the oral cavity, nasal cavity and over the palate.

Salivary cancer is not very common only 2% of the patients suffering from cancer in the head and neck region suffer from this type of cancer.
Cancer occurs due to irreversible, permanent damage to the genetic material of the body (mutation). Mutation may lead to suppression or over activation of these factors leading to stoppage of apoptosis and unobstructed progression of cell division resulting in production of immortal cells capable of spreading to different parts of the body.

In salivary gland cancer mutation is the main factor that leads to cancerous change of the cells. There are various types of salivary gland cancer classified based on the nature of the cells of origin, these are adenocarcinoma, adenoid cystic carcinoma, malignant mixed tumor, squamous cell carcinoma and salivary duct carcinoma.

Risk factors

Common risk factors include advanced age, exposure to radiation especially during treatment of other head neck cancer and occupational exposure to rubber plant, plumbing or asbestos mines.

Salivary Cancer Treatment

Treatment of salivary gland cancer include surgical removal of the gland either partly or wholly depending upon the type, stage and size of the tumor, radiation therapy and anti cancer drugs to kill residual cancerous cells.

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