Oncologist-approved cancer information from the American Society of Clinical Oncology
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Salivary Gland Cancer

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 3/2013
Symptoms and Signs

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. To see other pages in this guide, use the colored boxes on the right side of your screen, or click “Next” at the bottom.

People with salivary gland cancer may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with salivary gland cancer do not show any of these symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer. If you are concerned about a symptom or sign on this list, please talk with your doctor.

  • A lump on the face, neck, or mouth (usually painless)
  • Numbness in the face
  • The inability to move some facial muscles, especially if the face muscle on one side of the face stops moving and the area affected slowly expands (progressive facial muscle paralysis)
  • Pain or swelling in the face, chin, jawbone area, or neck
  • A difference between the size and/or shape of the left and right sides of the face or neck

People who notice any of these symptoms or signs should talk with a doctor and/or dentist right away, especially if they are persistent or get worse. When detected early, cancer of the head and neck have a much better chance of cure.

Your doctor will ask you questions about the symptoms you are experiencing to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis. This may include how long you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s) and how often.

Because many of these symptoms can also be caused by other noncancerous health conditions, it is always important to receive regular health and dental screenings, especially for those who routinely drink alcohol or use tobacco products or have used them in the past.

In fact, people who use alcohol and tobacco should receive a general screening examination at least once a year. This is a simple, quick procedure in which the doctor looks in the nose, mouth, and throat for abnormalities and feels for lumps in the neck. If anything unusual is found, the doctor will recommend a more extensive examination using one or more of the diagnostic procedures mentioned under the Diagnosis section.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms and side effects remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

Choose “Next” (below, right) to continue reading this guide to learn about what tests and scans you may have to learn more about the cause of your symptoms.  Or, use the colored boxes located on the right side of your screen to visit any section.

Last Updated: 
Tuesday, April 2, 2013

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