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Salivary gland cancer


The salivary glands are glandular organs responsible for the secretion of saliva, which comes into play in the first stage of digestion in connection with chewing to help degrading food substances. There are several types of salivary glands: accessory glands on the inner wall of the oral cavity, but also main glands including the sublingual glands, submandibular, and the parotid glands. The parotid glands are those most frequently affected by tumors. The latter are benign in most cases. Salivary gland cancers are represented mainly by parotid cancers.


Symptoms that may evoke a salivary gland cancer are:
- Increased volume of the parotid glands, marked by a hard swelling, pain at the posterior part of the cheek in front of the ear (generally on one side);
- the presence of nearby lymph nodes increased in size;
- paralysis of the face;
- associated signs such as pain when chewing, difficulty speaking or eating.


The different elements reported by the patient may point to cancer of the salivary glands. To be sure, in addition to clinical examination, the doctor will prescribe an ultrasound and a CT scan or MRI if necessary. The diagnosis is made by making a puncture and sometimes a solid confirmation may not be made until after the surgical removal of the parotid gland. In case of confirmation of the cancerous nature of the tumor, staging is necessary, that is to say, the implementation of additional tests to demonstrate the existence of cancer cells that may have migrated through the lymphatic system and metastasized in other organs.


In general, cancer of the parotid requires a surgical removal of the parotid gland. The follow-up treatment depends on the nature of the cancer. A lymph node dissection is frequently associated with surgery, and in advanced cases, radiation therapy may be necessary.