Salivary gland cancer: symptoms, treatment, prognosis

Head and neck cancer is a collective name for various types of cancer, including salivary gland cancer. It is very important that a tumor is discovered in time. People need to know what the complaints/symptoms are in the initial phase. How is it diagnosed, how can salivary gland cancer be treated and what is the prognosis? A salivary gland center has been established in Rotterdam. What is Frey’s Syndrome?

Article content

  • Salivary glands
  • Salivary stone
  • Salivary gland tumors
  • Causes of salivary gland tumor
  • Salivary gland tumor symptoms
  • Complications of salivary gland tumor
  • Salivary gland tumor treatment
  • Salivary gland tumor prognosis
  • Frey’s syndrome
  • Salivary gland center
  • Karl Vannieuwkerke (sports reporter, presenter)

Salivary glands

Salivary glands are glands around the oral cavity . They secrete saliva into the mouth through a drainage tube. There are three pairs of major salivary glands and several minor salivary glands. The parotid gland (parotis gland) is located just in front of the ear. The submandibular salivary gland (glandula sibmandibularis) and the sublingual gland (glandula sublingualis) are located in the floor of the mouth, under the tongue. The mucous membrane of the cheek contains several small salivary glands. Common conditions affecting the salivary glands are inflammation and formation of a salivary stone. Inflammation is called parotitis , a salivary gland inflammation is very painful. Inflammation can be caused by the mumps virus, but other viruses or bacteria can also cause an inflamed salivary gland. Sometimes malignant growths occur in the salivary glands, especially in the parotid gland .

Salivary stone

Another word for salivary stone is sialolite . It is a stone in the salivary gland or a duct of the salivary gland. The stone is made up of calcium salts and that is why you can often see it clearly on X-rays. If a stone blocks the output duct, a painful swelling of the salivary gland develops. The swelling occurs during meals, when saliva is produced and this cannot go away. The swelling will then disappear automatically. Sometimes the stone comes out on its own, so treatment is not necessary. However, if the stone does not come out, a minor procedure is performed under local anesthesia. Very occasionally, but this almost never happens, the entire salivary gland must be removed. Salivary stones usually occur in people over the age of forty and twice as often in men. Salivary stones can return after treatment .

Salivary gland tumors

Salivary gland tumors are non-malignant or malignant tumors in the salivary glands. It is more common in people over forty-five years of age . Gender, heredity and lifestyle are not significant factors. Tumors of the salivary glands are uncommon. Three quarters of the growths occur in the two parotid glands. These are located behind the jaw corners. But one in five salivary gland tumors is malignant .

Causes of salivary gland tumor

Not much is yet known about the causes of salivary gland cancer.

Salivary gland tumor symptoms

The symptoms that occur with a salivary gland tumor depend on whether it is a malignant or benign tumor. There is always some swelling, which you can feel in your mouth or outside the mouth.

  • Non-cancerous growths usually do not hurt, they feel like rubber and you can move them with your fingers. The growths grow very steadily and may remain the same size for years.
  • Malignant tumors in the salivary glands usually grow quickly, feel firm, sometimes they hurt. If the tumor grows, it can damage the facial nerve, which can lead to facial paralysis.

Complications of salivary gland tumor

If salivary gland cancer is not treated, it can spread to lymph nodes in the neck, but also to other parts of the body such as the liver.

Salivary gland tumor treatment

  • If there is a non-malignant tumor, the affected part of the gland will be removed by surgery. There is a risk of touching the facial nerve during this operation. This can lead to a drooping corner of the mouth. Sometimes the nerve heals again, but the injury can also be permanent.
  • In the case of a malignant tumor, the affected gland is removed in its entirety. If the lymph nodes in the neck are already affected, the practitioner can remove them. To really destroy all cancer cells, it may be necessary to use radiation after surgery.

Salivary gland tumor prognosis

  • Non-malignant tumors can usually be treated well, but they can come back. If not treated, a non-malignant tumor can develop into a malignant tumor. Treatment is therefore very important.
  • In the case of a malignant tumor: the sooner the tumor is noticed, the greater the chance that it will end well. If it spreads to areas outside the salivary glands, the prognosis is not rosy.

Frey’s syndrome

Surgery of the parotid gland can result in Frey syndrome. It occurs in almost all patients (several weeks to months after the operation has taken place), but often no one notices it. Symptoms: The skin in the area where surgery was performed looks red and sweaty when the person eats or sees or smells food. It is due to the operation: when the parotid gland or part of it is removed, nerve branches that are important for the production of saliva are affected. After the surgical procedure, the nerve branches fuse with the nerve endings of sweat glands located in the cheek. This leads to a reaction: the stimulus that leads to the production of saliva (for example eating or thinking about food) causes sweat to be produced near the cheek on the side of the face that has been operated on. Local injections of Botox can correct the problem.

Salivary gland center

in Rotterdam due to the rarity of the various conditions, the diagnosis is very complicated and all the equipment that is required. Knowledge is brought together (particularly of cytology), the advanced imaging and the presence of equipment for sialoendoscopy and crushing have given the treatment and research of salivary gland abnormalities an important incentive.

Karl Vannieuwkerke (sports reporter, presenter)

In October 2014, a tumor on Karl Vannieuwkerke’s salivary gland was removed and it turned out to be a malignant tumor. Fortunately, the tumor was discovered at an early stage and has not spread. Follow-up treatment in the form of radiotherapy was started in November 2014.