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Symptoms of Salivary Gland Cancer

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Salivary Gland Cancer?

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Updated June 27, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Salivary gland cancer is a rare type of cancer that develops in the multiple salivary glands in the head and neck region. Symptoms of salivary gland cancer can vary depending on what gland is affected. In some cases, a person with salivary gland cancer may not experience any symptoms.

Symptoms of Salivary Gland Cancer

Symptoms of salivary gland cancer include:
  • Swelling of the salivary glands
  • Pain in the salivary glands
  • Facial tingling or numbness
  • Weakness in facial muscles (caused by tumor affecting nerve pathways in the face)
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty opening the mouth widely
  • Ulcer, lump, or bump on the lips, inside of the mouth, or inside of the cheek

If you are experiencing the symptoms of salivary gland cancer, it is important to see your doctor. Do not wait for symptoms to improve or go away on their own. These symptoms can also be the symptoms of other, less serious conditions and diseases, so your doctor will likely recommend further testing and examination to determine the cause of symptoms.

  • Check your symptoms with Symptom Checker

What to Do If You Have Symptoms of Salivary Gland Cancer

When you do visit your doctor, be sure to thoroughly communicate your symptoms. Keeping a symptom journal can be one of the best ways to document your symptoms. It allows your doctor to identify possible triggers or patterns of your symptoms.

A physical exam is the first step in diagnosing salivary gland cancer. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may order other tests and blood work. MRIs and CT scans can help the doctor get a better view of the gland. A biopsy, called fine needle aspiration, may also be recommended to determine whether growths are benign or malignant.

Most salivary gland tumors are benign, but it is essential to determine the tumor status.

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