What is parotid gland cancer?

The parotid gland is the largest of the major salivary glands and the most likely to develop cancer. It is located in the cheek in front of the ear. The smaller major salivary glands are the sublingual salivary glands, which are under each side of the tongue, and the submandibular glands, which are under and inside the lower jaw bone (the mandible), toward the back. There are also a number of small minor salivary glands in the mouth. The salivary glands produce saliva, which helps keep the mouth moist and aids in digestion.

Several different types of cells can be found in salivary glands; as a result, several different types of cancers can develop. Some are slow growing; others are more aggressive.

The risk of parotid and other salivary gland cancers seems to increase following radiation exposure. The risk also tends to go up with age; salivary gland cancers are most common in people age 55 or older. Overall, salivary gland cancers are quite rare, occurring in approximately two in every 100,000 people each year in the United States (Source: ACS).

Parotid gland cancer is frequently curable, especially when caught in early stages. Treatment is typically surgery, which may be followed by radiation therapy. Chemotherapy can be effective in treating later stage cancers.

Emergencies related to parotid gland cancer are rare; however, parotid gland cancers are known to cause serious symptoms. Also, parotid gland cancers that are caught early have a better chance of cure than cancers that are not detected until later. Seek prompt medical care if you notice swelling in your cheek or jaw, inside your mouth, or in your neck, especially if it does not go away within a week or two. Also seek medical care for facial weakness or numbness, trouble swallowing or opening your mouth, or persistent pain in your face.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of parotid gland cancer?

Symptoms of parotid gland cancer are often related to enlargement of the gland, which may impinge on other structures.... Read more about parotid gland cancersymptoms

CAUSES

What causes parotid gland cancer?

What causes cells to undergo changes that lead to cancer is not known; however, several risk factors for cancer of the parotid gland are known, including a history of radiation exposure.... Read more about parotid gland cancercauses

TREATMENTS

How is parotid gland cancer treated?

Treatment of parotid gland cancer begins with seeking regular medical care throughout your life, including regular dental care. Regular medical care allows a health care professional to provide early screening tests. Regular medical care also provides an opportunity for your health care professional to promptly evaluate symptoms and your risks for developing parotid gland cancer.... Read more about parotid gland cancertreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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