Cancer Institute A national cancer institute
designated cancer center

What is Salivary Glands Cancer?

A woman’s neck

Cancer of the salivary glands is a disease in which cancer (malignant) cells are found in the tissues of the salivary glands. The salivary glands make saliva, the fluid that is released into the mouth to keep it moist and to help dissolve food.

Major clusters of salivary glands are found below the tongue, on the sides of the face just in front of the ears, and under the jawbone. Smaller clusters of salivary glands are found in other parts of the upper digestive tract. The smaller glands are called the minor salivary glands.

Many growths in the salivary glands do not spread to other tissues and are not cancer. These tumors are called “benign” tumors and are not usually treated the same as cancer.

Salivary duct stones may present as a “benign” salivary tumor.  We are equipped to remove these stones using a small camera that enter the duct and extract the stone (sialoendoscopy).

Prognosis of Cancer of the Salivary Glands

The chance of recovery (prognosis) depends on where the cancer is in the salivary glands, whether the cancer is just in the area where it started or has spread to other tissues (the stage), how the cancer cells look under a microscope (the grade), and the patient’s general state of health.

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