Salivary gland tumors are a rare type of cancer. This tumor can develop from the salivary glands in the mouth to the neck or throat area.
Salivary glands function to produce saliva in order to keep your mouth moist and aid digestion. The saliva produced contains enzymes that help break down food and protect healthy teeth from infection.
Humans have hundreds of salivary glands in their mouth. Some glands are very small and can only be seen using a microscope. Due to the large number of glands, the type of tumor can vary, depending on the location of the affected gland.
85% of salivary gland tumors occur in the parotid gland. About 25% of parotid gland tumors are categorized as malignant tumors or cancer.
Similar to other tumors and cancers, salivary gland tumors can also be treated through radiation treatment and chemotherapy. In some cases, patients with salivary gland tumors may also need to undergo surgery.
Causes of Salivary Gland Tumors
Salivary gland tumors are very rare. The exact cause of this tumor is still unknown.
Research shows that salivary gland tumors occur when some cells in a salivary gland develop changes or mutations in their DNA. These mutations allow the body’s cells to grow and divide rapidly.
New cells that grow will continue to live while other cells die over time. The accumulated cells will eventually form a tumor that can attack the surrounding tissue.
However, what causes cells to go through DNA mutation still remains unknown.
People who have gone through radiation therapy treatments are more likely to develop symptoms of salivary gland tumors. This is why elderly people are prone to having this condition.
Based on the history of salivary gland tumors, the tumors are more common to develop in male patients than female patients. This tumor also affects people who work in plumbing services, rubber factories, and asbestos mining.
When to See a Doctor for Salivary Gland Tumors?
Patients who feel that they may have symptoms of a salivary gland tumor can immediately consult an oncologist. The condition can also be recognized by a dentist even before the patient experiences certain symptoms.
When the doctor suspects a salivary gland tumor, the doctor may perform certain tests such as:
- Physical examination, the doctor will feel the patient’s jaw, neck, and throat to see if there’s any swelling.
- Imaging tests like MRI or CT scan, this will help detect the location and size of the tumor.
- Taking cell tissue samples to be tested in the laboratory. The doctor will insert a needle into the affected area that contains a tumor and then take a small amount of fluid and cells as a sample.
If the examination confirms that the patient has a salivary gland tumor, the doctor will determine the stage of the tumor based on its size and pace of growth.
Symptoms of Salivary Gland Tumors
The main symptoms experienced by patients with salivary gland tumors are:
- A lump near your jaw or in your neck or mouth
- Numbness in part of your face
- Ear discharge
- Difficulty swallowing and trouble opening your mouth widely
Pain in the face, ears, and jaw can occur due to tumor development where the cells spread to other areas of the face. When that happens, the tumor has already passed the early stage.
If the tumor has spread, you may also experience similar symptoms in your bones and lungs.
Treatment for Salivary Gland Tumors
Treatment for salivary gland tumors varies, depending on the size, location, grade, and stage of the tumor. The doctor will also adjust the treatment to the patient’s general physical health condition and age.
Salivary gland tumors are most often treated with surgery and radiotherapy. Salivary gland tumor surgical procedures include:
- Removing some of the affected salivary glands. If the tumor is small and located in an accessible area, the doctor may be able to remove the tumor surgically.
- Removing all of the affected salivary glands. If the tumor is large enough, the doctor may advise the patient to remove the entire salivary gland.
- Removing lymph nodes in the neck. The seed sap is one of the common areas affected by the spread of salivary gland tumors. The doctor may also remove the lymph nodes if the tumor has spread.
- Performing reconstructive surgery to restore the function of the salivary glands. This method is performed after the tumor has been removed. Reconstructive surgery is performed using skin grafts, nerve grafts, or tissue grafts from other parts of the body to repair the condition of the removed gland.
Surgery can indeed help improve the condition of salivary gland tumors. However, the procedure has the potential to damage part of the facial nerve and result in partial paralysis of the face.
Apart from surgery, radiation therapy is also one of the ways to treat salivary gland tumors. This therapy utilizes high-powered energy rays to kill cancer cells.
Radiation therapy is performed after the surgical procedure of tumor removal to prevent the cancer from appearing again via remaining cancer cells.
Treatment Cost for Salivary Gland Tumors
The cost for salivary gland tumor treatment varies, depending on where the tumor is located, the causes, and the treatment method chosen.
For more information regarding the estimated costs of salivary gland tumor treatment, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Salivary Gland Tumors
Researchers have yet to find out what triggers salivary gland tumors. However, this disease may affect people with risk factors such as:
- Older age. That said, salivary gland tumors can occur at any age.
- Exposure to radiation. For example, radiation used to treat head and neck cancer, may increase the potential for salivary gland tumors.
- Workplace exposure to certain substances, especially those who work in rubber manufacturing, asbestos mining and plumbing.
Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Salivary Gland Tumors
Patients with salivary gland tumors begin their recovery after the tumor has been removed surgically. During the recovery period, patients are advised to maintain their health as per the doctor’s recommendations.