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] - Cellular Classification of Salivary Gland Cancer

Salivary gland neoplasms are remarkable for their histologic diversity. These neoplasms include benign and malignant tumors of epithelial, mesenchymal, and lymphoid origin. Salivary gland tumors pose a particular challenge to the surgical pathologist. Differentiating benign from malignant tumors may be difficult, primarily because of the complexity of the classification and the rarity of several entities, which may exhibit a broad spectrum of morphologic diversity in individual lesions.[1] In some cases, hybrid lesions may be seen.[2] The key guiding principle to establish the malignant nature of a salivary gland tumor is the demonstration of an infiltrative margin.[1]

The following cellular classification scheme draws heavily from a scheme published by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP).[3] Malignant nonepithelial neoplasms are included in the scheme because these neoplasms comprise a significant proportion of salivary gland neoplasms seen in the clinical setting. For completeness, malignant secondary tumors are also included in the scheme.

Recommended Related to Cancer

What is prevention?

Cancer prevention is action taken to lower the chance of getting cancer. By preventing cancer, the number of new cases of cancer in a group or population is lowered. Hopefully, this will lower the number of deaths caused by cancer. To prevent new cancers from starting, scientists look at risk factors and protective factors. Anything that increases your chance of developing cancer is called a cancer risk factor; anything that decreases your chance of developing cancer is called a cancer protective...

Read the What is prevention? article > >

Where AFIP statistics regarding the incidence, or relative frequency, of particular histopathologies are cited, some bias may exist because of the AFIP methods of case accrual as a pathology reference service. When possible, other sources are cited for incidence data. Notwithstanding the AFIP data, the incidence of a particular histopathology has been found to vary considerably depending upon the study cited. This variability in reporting may be partially caused by the rare incidence of many salivary gland neoplasms.

Epithelial Neoplasms

The clinician should be aware that several benign epithelial salivary gland neoplasms have malignant counterparts, which are shown below:[3]

  • Pleomorphic adenoma (i.e., mixed tumor) (see carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma).
  • Warthin tumor, also known as papillary cystadenoma lymphomatosum.
  • Monomorphic adenomas:
    • Basal cell adenoma (see basal cell adenocarcinoma).
    • Canalicular adenoma.
    • Oncocytoma (see oncocytic carcinoma).
    • Sebaceous adenoma.
    • Sebaceous lymphadenoma (see sebaceous lymphadenocarcinoma).
  • Myoepithelioma (see myoepithelial carcinoma).
  • Cystadenoma (see cystadenocarcinoma).
  • Ductal papillomas.
  • Sialoblastoma.

Histologic grading of salivary gland carcinomas is important to determine the proper treatment approach, though it is not an independent indicator of the clinical course and must be considered in the context of the clinical stage. Clinical stage, particularly tumor size, may be the critical factor to determine the outcome of salivary gland cancer and may be more important than histologic grade.[1] For example, stage I intermediate-grade or high-grade mucoepidermoid carcinomas can be successfully treated, whereas low-grade mucoepidermoid carcinomas that present as stage III disease may have a very aggressive clinical course.[4]

    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