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Salivary Gland Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Cellular Classification of Salivary Gland Cancer


Lymphomas and benign lymphoepithelial lesion

Lymphomas of the major salivary glands are characteristically of the non-Hodgkin type. In an AFIP review of case files, non-Hodgkin lymphoma accounted for 16.3% of all malignant tumors that occurred in the major salivary glands; disease in the parotid gland accounted for about 80% of all cases.[3]

Patients with benign lymphoepithelial lesion (e.g., Mikulicz disease), which is a manifestation of the autoimmune disease, Sjögren syndrome, are at an increased risk for development of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.[80,81,82,83,84] Benign lymphoepithelial lesion is clinically characterized by diffuse and bilateral enlargement of the salivary and lacrimal glands.[23] Morphologically, a salivary gland lesion is composed of prominent myoepithelial islands surrounded by a lymphocytic infiltrate. Germinal centers are often present in the lymphocytic infiltrate.[23] Immunophenotypically and genotypically, the lymphocytic infiltrate is composed of B-lymphocytes and T-lymphocytes, which are polyclonal. In some instances, the B-cell lymphocytic infiltrate can undergo clonal expansion and evolve into frank non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The vast majority of the non-Hodgkin lymphomas arising in a background of benign lymphoepithelial lesions are marginal zone lymphomas of mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT).[81,82,83,84] MALT lymphomas of the salivary glands, like their counterparts in other anatomic sites, typically display relatively indolent clinical behavior.[3,85]

Primary non-MALT lymphomas of the salivary glands may also occur and appear to have a prognosis similar to those in patients who have histologically identical nodal lymphomas.[86,87] Unlike non-Hodgkin lymphoma, involvement of the major salivary glands by Hodgkin lymphoma is rare. Most tumors occur in the parotid gland.[3] The most common histologic types encountered are the nodular sclerosing and lymphocyte-predominant variants.[88,89]

Mesenchymal neoplasms

Mesenchymal neoplasms account for 1.9% to 5% of all neoplasms that occur within the major salivary glands.[90,91] These cellular classifications pertain to major salivary gland tumors. Because the minor salivary glands are small and embedded within fibrous connective tissue, fat, and skeletal muscle, the origin of a mesenchymal neoplasm from stroma cannot be determined.[3] The types of benign mesenchymal salivary gland neoplasms include hemangiomas, lipomas, and lymphangiomas.

Malignant mesenchymal salivary gland neoplasms include malignant schwannomas, hemangiopericytomas, malignant fibrous histiocytomas, rhabdomyosarcomas, and fibrosarcomas, among others; in the major salivary glands, these neoplasms represent approximately 0.5% of all benign and malignant salivary gland tumors and approximately 1.5% of all malignant tumors.[90,92,93] Of importance is to establish a primary salivary gland origin for these tumors by excluding the possibilities of metastasis and direct extension from other sites. In addition, the diagnosis of salivary gland carcinosarcoma should be excluded.[3] Primary salivary gland sarcomas behave like their soft tissue counterparts in which prognosis is related to sarcoma type, histologic grade, tumor size, and stage.[93,94] (Refer to the PDQ summary on Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma Treatment for more information.) A comprehensive review of salivary gland mesenchymal neoplasms can be found elsewhere.[95]


WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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