Salivary Gland Cancer: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 05/2020

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. Use the menu to see other pages.

People with salivary gland cancer may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with salivary gland cancer do not have any of these changes. Or, the cause of a symptom may be a different 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 1 side of the face stops moving and the affected area 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 any changes you experience, please talk with your 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 figure out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis. When detected early, head and neck cancers have a much better chance of being cured.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may be called palliative care or supportive care. It is often started soon after diagnosis and continued throughout treatment. Be sure to talk with your health care team about the 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. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.