Salivary Gland Cancer – What is it?
What is a Salivary Gland?
As the name suggests the Salivary Glands are the glands that produce saliva (they also secrete an Enzyme called ‘amylase’ for digestion and Antibodies/other substances too to help prevent various infections of the mouth, throat and our body). The reason they are called glands is because organs/cells or group of cells which produce and secret a lubricant substance into the body are referred to as ‘glands’.
The Salivary glands produce a moisturizing lubricant in our mouths and is secreted as we bite into our food it is wetted and the start of food digestion process starts here. This secretion at the same time protects our body against bacteria and viruses.
Salivary gland cancer is most commonly seen in the salivary glands located under the jaw close to the ears and rarely occurs in the minor salivary glands in our mouth. Salivary glands in the human body are made up of three main textural layers of tissue. Due to this textural richness it is susceptible to many types of cancers and a perfect ground for growth. Therefore treatment may consist of one or multiple options such as surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Salivary Gland Cancer - How is it diagnosed?
Salivary gland cancer often manifests itself with an insidious selling and is quite palpable. This swelling usually is not painful and tends to grow bigger over time. It will grow rather than shrink and does not show any other symptoms.
If you notice such a swelling of the salivary glands near your ears, nose and or throat I would recommend you go to see and ENT doctor as soon a possible and have it checked. The ENT doctor in order to diagnose the nature of this swelling will need to take a biopsy. This is done by inserting a needle into the swelling and taking a small piece that will be sent for tests. If the test results prove positive then the cancer treatment process is planned and put into practice.
One typical characteristic of salivary gland cancer and a common occurrence is that it tends to spread to the lymph nodes located in the neck and this could all be part of the same cancer. We will need to establish if the disease that has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, is or is not part of the same type of cancer. This will enable us to decide the course of treatment that will be need for the patient. We as physicians will of course take into consideration the patients concerns, lifestyle and expectations.