Cancer of the salivary gland is quite rare, The statistic given by NCI is 2.5 to 3 new casesout of 100,000 population, or about 1,000 new cases per year in the US – according to the National Cancer Institute. The cancer only represents 3 to 5 percent of total head and neck cancers.
The cancer begins in the salivary glands in the head, which are located in the mouth, throat and neck. The most common place for the cancer to start is in the parotid gland — near the front part of the ear.
Yauch, 47, was treated for the cancer in 2009, and in 2011, there were false reports that he had beaten it. But he actually was never cured of the disease.
Not all salivary gland tumors are cancerous, according to the National Institutes of Health. When the tumor is benign, a doctor may choose to just remove the salivary gland. However, other treatments like radiation therapy, chemotherapy are needed if the tumor is malignant (surgery to remove the cancerous tumor is also an option), according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Salivary gland cancer is most common amongst people in their 60s and 70s, according to the National Cancer Institute. Risk factors include being exposed to radiation (like that which is used to treat other cancers in the head or neck), and exposure to substances used in asbestos mining, plumbing and rubber manufacturingSigns of salivary gland cancer include:
having a typically painless lump in the mouth
or near the ear, jaw, lip or cheek,
ear fluid drainage,
a numb or weak sensation in the face,
problems with swallowing,
and facial pain – according to the National Cancer Institute. Tests to diagnose the cancer include screenings like MRI, CT or PET scans, an ultrasound exam and endoscopy.
The Cleveland Clinic reported that a number of factors can influence how deadly salivary gland cancer will be, including how old the patient is and how healthy he or she is; what kinds of cancer cells the tumor is comprised of; which salivary gland the cancer is in; and the size of the cancer tumor.
Salivary cancer-general information
The salivary glands make saliva (spit). This keeps your mouth moist and helps food to slide down the gullet into the stomach. The largest salivary glands are the:
- sublingual glands, which are found underneath the tongue
- parotid glands, which are found at the sides of the mouth just in front of the ears
- submandibular glands, which are found under the jawbone.
There are also many more tiny glands in the lining of the mouth and throat. These don’t have individual names but are known as the minor salivary glands.
Cancers affecting the salivary glands are rare, with approximately 550 new cases in the UK each year. They can occur at any age, but are more common in people over 50.
There are different types of salivary gland cancer, depending on the type of cell that has become cancerous.
Like many other forms of cancer, the exact causes of salivary gland cancer are unknown. Non-cancerous (benign) tumours of the salivary glands are more common than cancerous (malignant) tumours.
Tumours affecting the salivary glands are not infectious and can’t be passed on to other people. They are not caused by an inherited faulty gene, so the relatives of someone with salivary gland cancer aren’t likely to develop it.
The most common symptom of salivary gland cancer is a swelling on the side of the face, just in front of the ears, or under the jawbone. Some people also have some numbness and drooping of one side of the face (facial palsy).
These symptoms may occur with conditions other than cancer, and most people with these symptoms won’t have a salivary gland cancer. However, like most cancers, salivary gland cancers are best treated when diagnosed at an early stage. You should tell your GP about these symptoms if they do not improve over a few days.