What Is Salivary Gland Cancer?

Your salivary glands consist of several different types of cells, and cancer can form in any of them. Salivary gland cancers are named according to cell type.

How quickly salivary gland cancers grow and spread varies considerably, with some types tending to grow faster than others. Doctors usually grade the cancers from low to high, based on how abnormal the cancers look under a microscope. The grade gives you a rough idea of how quickly the cancer is likely to grow and spread.


Salivary gland cancers are classified as:

  • Low grade (well-differentiated). Low-grade tumors look very much like normal salivary gland cells. They tend to grow slowly and have a good outcome.

  • Intermediate grade (moderately-differentiated).Intermediate-grade tumors have an appearance and outlook that is between low and high.

  • High grade (poorly-differentiated). High grade tumors look quite different from normal cells and often grow and spread quickly. The outlook (prognosis) for these cancers is usually not as good as for lower-grade cancers

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