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Benign and Malignant Salivary Gland Tumors

The role of the salivary glands is to produce saliva in your mouth which aids in digestion, keeps your mouth moist and your teeth healthy. There are three major salivary glands that come in pairs (Parotid, Sub-mandibular & Sublingual) and hundreds of minor salivary glands. When abnormal cells grow in these glands they are known as salivary gland tumors. These somewhat rare tumors can begin in any of the salivary glands, though the majority are found in the parotid glands. While most salivary tumors are benign, some can be cancerous. Benign salivary gland tumors rarely metastasize, but they may continue to grow, causing deformities or other problems.  That’s why most are best removed. Primary salivary gland tumors often appear to patients as a painless but growing mass. There is a variety of types of salivary gland tumors, grouped according to high and low grade, with low grade tumors offering the better prognoses.


The signs/symptoms of a salivary gland tumor include:

  • A lump/swelling near your jaw, neck or mouth
  • Facial numbness in part of face
  • Muscle weakness on one side of face
  • Trouble with mouth opening wide
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain in the area of salivary gland

Treatment Options

To diagnose a salivary gland cancer, the doctor will do a physical exam and typically order a fine needle biopsy and an MRI or other imaging test. Whether or not it is malignant, most salivary gland tumors are recommended to be surgically removed. If the tumor is small and easily accessed, the surgeon may only remove a portion of the gland, otherwise they may remove the entire gland, and sometimes even some of the surrounding lymph nodes. If needed due to issues with speech, chewing, swallowing or moving your face, doctors may also recommend reconstructive surgery. There is a risk of damage to the facial nerve when performing salivary gland surgery, which can result in temporary or permanent paralysis of a portion of the face. Following surgery on a cancerous salivary gland tumor, doctors may recommend radiation to some patients.

Previous Page Last Review Date: October 21, 2020
Benign and Malignant Salivary Gland Tumors Team
Rodrigo Arrangoiz, MD, MS, FACS

Rodrigo Arrangoiz, MD, MS, FACS

Oncology Surgery
Hialeah 33016
Adrian Legaspi, MD, FACS

Adrian Legaspi, MD, FACS

Oncology Surgery
Hialeah 33016