Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Salivary Gland Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - General Information About Salivary Gland Cancer


Clinical Presentation

Most patients with benign tumors of the major or minor salivary glands present with painless swelling of the parotid, submandibular, or the sublingual glands. Neurological signs, such as numbness or weakness caused by nerve involvement, typically indicate a malignancy.[2] Facial nerve weakness that is associated with a parotid or submandibular tumor is an ominous sign. Persistent facial pain is highly suggestive of malignancy; approximately 10% to 15% of malignant parotid neoplasms present with pain.[8,14] (Refer to the PDQ summary on Pain for more information.) The majority of parotid tumors, both benign and malignant, however, present as an asymptomatic mass in the gland.[2,8]

Prognostic Factors

Early-stage low-grade malignant salivary gland tumors are usually curable by adequate surgical resection alone. The prognosis is more favorable when the tumor is in a major salivary gland; the parotid gland is most favorable, then the submandibular gland; the least favorable primary sites are the sublingual and minor salivary glands. Large bulky tumors or high-grade tumors carry a poorer prognosis and may best be treated by surgical resection combined with postoperative radiation therapy.[15] The prognosis also depends on the following:[16,17]

  • Gland in which they arise.
  • Histology.
  • Grade (i.e., degree of malignancy).
  • Extent of primary tumor (i.e., the stage).
  • Whether the tumor involves the facial nerve, has fixation to the skin or deep structures, or has spread to lymph nodes or distant sites.

Follow-up and Survivorship

Overall, clinical stage, particularly tumor size, may be the crucial factor to determine the outcome of salivary gland cancer and may be more important than histologic grade.[18]

Treatment management

Perineural invasion can also occur, particularly in high-grade adenoid cystic carcinoma, and should be specifically identified and treated.[19] Radiation therapy may increase the chance of local control and increase the survival of patients when adequate margins cannot be achieved.[20][Level of evidence: 3iiiDii] Unresectable or recurrent tumors may respond to chemotherapy.[21,22,23] Fast neutron-beam radiation therapy or accelerated hyperfractionated photon-beam schedules have been shown to be effective in the treatment of inoperable, unresectable, and recurrent tumors.[24,25,26]

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
New! I AM Not Cancer Facebook Group
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Ovarian cancer illustration
Real Cancer Perspectives
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
what is your cancer risk
colorectal cancer treatment advances
breast cancer overview slideshow
prostate cancer overview
lung cancer overview slideshow
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
Actor Michael Douglas