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Salivary gland cancer is a type of head and neck cancer found in the salivary glands, the organs on each side of the face that make saliva. Salivary glands are made up of several different kinds of cells and cancer may start in any of those cell types.
Salivary gland cancers are graded based on how similar they look to normal cells:
- Grade 1 cancer cells look very similar to normal salivary gland cells and tend to grow slowly.
- Grade 2 cancer cells look somewhat different to normal cells.
- Grade 3 cancer cells look very different to normal cells and may grow and spread quickly.
Possible signs and symptoms of salivary gland cancer include:
- A lump or swelling in your mouth, cheek, jaw, or neck
- Persistent pain in your mouth, cheek, jaw, or ear
- A new difference in size or shape of the left and right sides of your face or neck
- Partial facial numbness
- Muscle weakness on one side of the face
- Trouble opening the mouth widely
- Trouble swallowing
Treatment options for salivary gland cancer may depend on the type and stage of the cancer, as well as the grade of the cancer and the patient’s overall health. Surgery is usually recommended to remove the cancer and part or all of the salivary gland. Radiation therapy may be recommended after surgery to treat any remaining cancer.