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Salivary Gland Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Stage II Major Salivary Gland Cancer

Low-grade stage II tumors of the salivary gland may be cured with surgery alone.[1,2,3] Radiation therapy as primary treatment may be used for tumors for which resection involves a significant cosmetic or functional deficit or as an adjuvant to surgery when positive margins are present.[4]

High-grade stage II salivary gland tumors that are confined to the gland in which they arise may be cured by surgery alone, though adjuvant radiation therapy may be used, especially if positive margins are present. Primary radiation therapy may be given for tumors that are inoperable, unresectable, or recurrent. Fast neutron-beam radiation therapy has been shown to improve disease-free survival and overall survival in this clinical situation.[5,6,7]

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Low-grade Tumors

Standard treatment options:

  1. Surgery alone or with postoperative radiation therapy, if indicated, is appropriate.[8,9]
  2. Chemotherapy should be considered in special circumstances, such as when radiation therapy or surgery is refused.

High-grade Tumors

Standard treatment options:

  1. Localized high-grade salivary gland tumors that are confined to the gland in which they arise may be cured by radical surgery alone.
  2. Postoperative radiation therapy may improve local control and increase survival rates for patients with high-grade tumors, positive surgical margins, or perineural invasion.[10][Level of evidence: 3iiiDii][11,12,13]
  3. Fast neutron-beam radiation therapy or accelerated hyperfractionated photon-beam schedules reportedly are more effective than conventional x-ray therapy in the treatment of patients with inoperable, unresectable, or recurrent malignant salivary gland tumors.[5,6,7,14]

Treatment options under clinical evaluation:

  • Clinical trials exploring ways to improve local control with radiation therapy and/or radiosensitizers are appropriate. The role of chemotherapy is also under study.[15,16]

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage II salivary gland cancer. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.


  1. Byers RM, Jesse RH, Guillamondegui OM, et al.: Malignant tumors of the submaxillary gland. Am J Surg 126 (4): 458-63, 1973.
  2. Mendenhall WM, Werning JW, Pfister DG: Treatment of head and neck cancer. In: DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA: Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2011, pp 729-80.
  3. Woods JE, Chong GC, Beahrs OH: Experience with 1,360 primary parotid tumors. Am J Surg 130 (4): 460-2, 1975.
  4. Guillamondegui OM, Byers RM, Luna MA, et al.: Aggressive surgery in treatment for parotid cancer: the role of adjunctive postoperative radiotherapy. Am J Roentgenol Radium Ther Nucl Med 123 (1): 49-54, 1975.
  5. Krüll A, Schwarz R, Engenhart R, et al.: European results in neutron therapy of malignant salivary gland tumors. Bull Cancer Radiother 83 (Suppl): 125-9s, 1996.
  6. Douglas JG, Lee S, Laramore GE, et al.: Neutron radiotherapy for the treatment of locally advanced major salivary gland tumors. Head Neck 21 (3): 255-63, 1999.
  7. Douglas JG, Laramore GE, Austin-Seymour M, et al.: Treatment of locally advanced adenoid cystic carcinoma of the head and neck with neutron radiotherapy. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 46 (3): 551-7, 2000.
  8. Spiro RH: Salivary neoplasms: overview of a 35-year experience with 2,807 patients. Head Neck Surg 8 (3): 177-84, 1986 Jan-Feb.
  9. Theriault C, Fitzpatrick PJ: Malignant parotid tumors. Prognostic factors and optimum treatment. Am J Clin Oncol 9 (6): 510-6, 1986.
  10. Hosokawa Y, Shirato H, Kagei K, et al.: Role of radiotherapy for mucoepidermoid carcinoma of salivary gland. Oral Oncol 35 (1): 105-11, 1999.
  11. Garden AS, el-Naggar AK, Morrison WH, et al.: Postoperative radiotherapy for malignant tumors of the parotid gland. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 37 (1): 79-85, 1997.
  12. Mendenhall WM, Morris CG, Amdur RJ, et al.: Radiotherapy alone or combined with surgery for salivary gland carcinoma. Cancer 103 (12): 2544-50, 2005.
  13. Chen AM, Granchi PJ, Garcia J, et al.: Local-regional recurrence after surgery without postoperative irradiation for carcinomas of the major salivary glands: implications for adjuvant therapy. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 67 (4): 982-7, 2007.
  14. Wang CC, Goodman M: Photon irradiation of unresectable carcinomas of salivary glands. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 21 (3): 569-76, 1991.
  15. Suen JY, Johns ME: Chemotherapy for salivary gland cancer. Laryngoscope 92 (3): 235-9, 1982.
  16. Posner MR, Ervin TJ, Weichselbaum RR, et al.: Chemotherapy of advanced salivary gland neoplasms. Cancer 50 (11): 2261-4, 1982.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: May 28, 2015
    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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