April 19, 2023
The salivary glands are situated on each side of the face and produce saliva that helps with digestion and lubrication. This type of cancer is rare and accounts for less than 1% of all cancers, with only 3,700 new cases diagnosed in the United States each year. The primary causes of this cancer are benign (non-cancer) and malignant (cancer) tumors developed in the salivary gland due to abnormal cell division.
There are a few types of salivary gland cancer and they are typically classified based on the specific type of cells from where the cancer originates. The following are some of the most common types of salivary gland cancer:
Mucoepidermoid carcinoma is the most common type, and it develops in the cells producing mucus and epidermal cells. This type of salivary gland cancer accounts for about one-third of all cases.
Adenoid cystic carcinoma is less common but it is generally a more aggressive type of salivary gland cancer. It develops in the ducts of the salivary glands and can quickly spread to the nearby tissues and organs if compared to other types of this cancer.
Acinic cell carcinoma also develops in the cells that produce saliva and is typically a slow-growing cancer with lower recurrence rate.
Polymorphous adenocarcinoma is also a rare type of salivary gland cancer, mainly affecting the minor salivary glands in the mouth.
Mucoepidermoid-like carcinoma is a newer classification that has features similar to both mucoepidermoid carcinoma and adenoid cystic carcinoma.
The following are some of the most common risk factors associated with salivary gland cancer:
Age: Salivary gland cancer is most commonly reported among older adults, with the majority of cases being reported in people over age 50.
Radiation exposure: Those who have been exposed to radiation in adjacent organs, such as people who had gone through radiation therapy for head and neck cancer, may develop this cancer.
Viral infections: Certain viruses, such as human papillomavirus (HPV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), may be linked to the development of this disease.
Family history: This rare form of cancer can be hereditary and those who have a family history of salivary gland cancer may be at greater risk.
Exposure to chemicals: People working in certain occupations that involve exposure to certain chemicals or substances, such as asbestos, may develop this cancer.
Having one or more of these risk factors does not necessarily mean that an individual will develop salivary gland cancer for sure. Therefore, it is crucial to talk to a healthcare provider regarding any queries or concerns about salivary gland cancer to get a correct diagnosis.
However, these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, therefore, it is important to see a primary care physician immediately if any of these symptoms are visible.
An oncologist may recommend different one single treatment option or a combination of different procedures for salivary gland cancer considering the type and stage of cancer, as well as the patient's overall health and preferences. The following are some common and effective treatment options for salivary gland cancer:
It is often the first-line treatment for salivary gland cancer that focuses on removing the entire tumor along with a margin of normal tissue to increase the chances of full recovery and reduce the risk of recurrence. Although it is rare, depending on the spread of the disease, a part or all of the affected salivary gland may need to be removed, which can later affect the patient's ability to produce saliva.
This traditional cancer treatment procedure uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancerous cells in salivary gland or nearby areas. Oncologists may recommend radiotherapy before or after surgery, or even as the primary treatment for salivary gland cancer.
This treatment option is typically not as effective for salivary gland cancer as it is for other types of cancer. However, doctors may recommend chemotherapy along with radiation therapy for more advanced cases of this disease.
This newer type of cancer treatment uses drugs to target specific molecules or proteins that are involved in the growth and spread of cancerous cells. Targeted therapy may be used only for a few types of salivary gland cancer that have specific genetic mutations.
In addition to these treatments, those suffering from salivary gland cancer may also opt for supportive care services to manage symptoms and side effects, such as pain medication, nutrition therapy, and physical therapy.
Salivary gland cancer tends to have a relatively good prognosis rate if compared to other types of cancer. However, the outlook can vary widely depending on the specific circumstances of each case and the patient’s overall health condition.
The following are the 5-year survival rate for salivary gland cancer as stated by the American Cancer Society:
Individuals who have been diagnosed with salivary gland cancer should work closely with a healthcare team to curate a personalized treatment plan that considers their specific needs and preferences as well as their overall health condition. With early detection and appropriate treatment, many people with salivary gland cancer are able to achieve a good outcome and maintain a good quality of life. For any queries or concerns about salivary gland cancer, contact ACTC, one of the best cancer treatment centers in Florida.