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HomeENT treatmentsNeck- and Throat Disease › Parotid and Salivary Gland Tumors Causes & Symptoms

Parotid and Salivary Gland Tumors Causes & Symptoms

Salivary gland tumors are rare types of tumors that begin either in the parotid gland, submandibular or sublingual glands. Salivary gland tumors can begin in any of the salivary glands in your mouth, neck or throat. Salivary glands make saliva, which aids in digestion, keeps your mouth moist and supports healthy teeth. Salivary gland tumors most commonly occur in the parotid gland, accounting nearly 85% of all salivary gland tumors.

What are common symptoms of salivary gland tumors?

Usually, a lump or a swelling near your earlobe and jaw is the first sign of a parotid gland tumor. Later, more symptoms such as a numbness in part of the face, muscle weakness on one side of the face, persisting pain in the area of salivary glands, difficulty swallowing and trouble opening your mouth widely may be experienced.

What is causing salivary gland tumors?

In general, salivary gland tumors are rare, accounting for less than 10 percent of all head and neck tumors.

Many different types of salivary gland tumors exist and are classified based on the type of cells involved in the tumors. The most common benign salivary gland tumor is a pleomorphic adenoma. This is a low growing tumor that occurs often in the parotid gland. Other benign salivary gland tumors include basal cell adenoma and Warthin tumor.

Research revealed that malignant forms occur when some cells in a salivary gland develop mutations in their DNA. Malignant tumors of the salivary gland are uncommon, but not rare. They often present as a painless enlarging mass.

What are risk factors for salivary gland tumors?

Older age, radiation exposure and workplace exposure to certain substances may increase the risk of developing a salivary gland tumor. Jobs associated with salivary gland tumors include those involved in rubber manufacturing, asbestos mining and plumbing.

How are salivary gland tumors diagnosed?

Often the patient is noticing a lump in the jaw or neck area either when shaving or putting lotion onto the skin. A doctor will feel your jaw, neck and throat for lumps or swelling during a physical exam. Imaging tests, such as ultrasound of the neck and magnetic resonance (MRI) may be added as the size and location of the salivary gland tumor needs to be determined. In some case it is recommended collecting a sample of tissue (biopsy) or performing an ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration (FNA) for laboratory testing to determine if the tumor is cancerous.

How are salivary gland tumors treated?

Treatment for salivary gland tumors depends on the type, size and stage of the salivary gland tumor. It usually involves surgery. Salivary gland surgery can be difficult because several important nerves are located in and around the glands. Especially the facial nerve, a nerve in the face that controls facial movement runs through the parotid gland and therefore requires most attention during surgical removal of the tumor.
If you have a swelling in the area of salivary glands or any other persisting symptom of salivary gland tumor you may schedule an evaluation with an experienced ear, nose and throat doctor.

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