Salivary Gland Cancer Symptoms and Treatment

Experts at Mount Sinai’s Head and Neck Institute have extensive experience treating all types and all stages of salivary gland cancer. Our multidisciplinary team is comprised of dedicated specialists, including head and neck cancer surgeons, reconstructive/ cosmetic surgeons, radiation oncologists, and medical oncologists. Together with the patient, we collaborate to formulate a personalized treatment plan that is least invasive and maximizes oral and swallowing function.

Causes and Symptoms of Salivary Gland Cancer

Most commonly, cancer of the major salivary glands, parotid or submandibular, is discovered when a lump develops on the cheek or underneath the jawline, respectively.  Minor salivary gland cancers are much less common; these can present throughout the lining of the mouth and throat, anywhere from the lips to the windpipe or esophagus.  Though the vast majority of major salivary gland tumors are benign, the signs that may indicate malignancy are rapid growth, pain, or dysfunction to the movement of the face (weakness or twitching).  Causes of salivary gland cancer are not well understood; no well-proven risk factors exist.

Treatment of Salivary Gland Cancer

Our salivary gland cancer specialists function as part of The Head and Neck Institute at Mount Sinai, which is a multidisciplinary research and clinical care institution. Treatment for early stage - or low grade - salivary gland cancer is fairly standard; it consists of surgery to remove the tumor, as well as possibly nearby lymph nodes.  After surgery, depending on the pathologic characteristics of the tumor, additional treatment, such as radiation, may be indicated.

Intermediate - or high grade tumors - as well as ones that have spread to adjacent structures or lymph nodes, are considered more advanced. In these cases, it is critical to have a surgical team in place to address potential issues such as nerve reconstruction and cosmetic defect restoration. At Mount Sinai, our surgeons in the Division of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery are dedicated to routine through complex reconstruction cases associated with cancers of the head and neck. Furthermore, because postoperative treatment such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be recommended, it is important to work with a well-coordinated team that includes members in all these fields.

Salivary Cancer Research and Clinical Trials at Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai participates in a number of clinical trials, allowing patients the opportunity to be treated with promising new modalities to enhance cure in even the most resistant forms of disease.

Clinical follow-up for salivary gland cancer, like many other cancers, involves regular office examinations, as well as radiologic scans to ensure durable cure. The Head and Neck Institute staff works together to synchronize scans and visits with relevant specialists to help make each patient’s visit to Mount Sinai as seamless and complete as possible.