Salivary Gland Cancer: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2015

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, use the menu on the side of your screen.

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.

  • A lump on the face, neck, or mouth that is usually painless

  • Numbness in the face

  • Inability to move some facial muscles, especially if the muscle on one side of the face stops moving and the area affected slowly expands. This is known as 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

If you are concerned about one or more of the symptoms or signs on this list, talk with a doctor and/or dentist right away, especially if they don’t go away or get worse. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis. When detected early, head and neck cancers have a much better chance of cure.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms 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.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis, and it explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Or, use the menu on the side of your screen to choose another section to continue reading this guide.