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Cancer Health Center

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


Mucinous adenocarcinoma

Mucinous adenocarcinoma is a rare malignant neoplasm characterized by large amounts of extracellular epithelial mucin that contains cords, nests, and solitary epithelial cells. The incidence is unknown. Limited data indicate that most, if not all, occur in the major salivary glands with the submandibular gland as the predominant site.[3,49] These tumors may be associated with dull pain and tenderness.[3,49] This neoplasm may be considered to be low grade.[3]

Malignant mixed tumors

The classification of malignant mixed tumors, includes three distinct clinicopathologic entities: carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma, carcinosarcoma, and metastasizing mixed tumor. Carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma constitutes the vast majority of cases, whereas carcinosarcoma, a true malignant mixed tumor, and metastasizing mixed tumor are extremely rare.[3]

Carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma

Carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma, also known as carcinoma ex mixed tumor, is a carcinoma that shows histologic evidence of arising from or in a benign pleomorphic adenoma.[50] Diagnosis requires the identification of benign tumor in the tissue sample.[51] The incidence or relative frequency of this tumor varies considerably depending on the study cited.[1] A review of material at the AFIP showed carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma to comprise 8.8% of all mixed tumors and 4.6% of all malignant salivary gland tumors, ranking it as the sixth most common malignant salivary gland tumor after mucoepidermoid carcinoma; adenocarcinoma, NOS; acinic cell carcinoma; polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma; and adenoid cystic carcinoma.[3] The neoplasm occurs primarily in the major salivary glands.[52]

The most common clinical presentation is a painless mass.[3] Approximately 33% of patients may experience facial paralysis.[53] Depending on the series cited, survival times vary significantly: 25% to 65% at 5 years, 24% to 50% at 10 years, 10% to 35% at 15 years, and 0% to 38% at 20 years.[3] In addition to tumor stage, histologic grade and degree of invasion are important parameters to determine prognosis.[54]


Carcinosarcoma, also known as true malignant mixed tumor, is a rare malignant salivary gland neoplasm that contains both carcinoma and sarcoma components. Either or both components are expressed in metastatic foci. Some carcinosarcomas develop de novo while others develop in association with benign mixed tumor. This neoplasm is rare; only eight cases exist in the AFIP case files.[3] At one facility, only 11 cases were recorded over a 32-year period.[8] The majority of tumors occur in the major salivary glands.

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