Causes of Salivary Gland Tumors

Abnormal cells that grow in the salivary gland ducts are called salivary gland tumors. These glands produce saliva that contain important digestion enzymes and help clean the mouth. There are six major salivary glands, three pairs of two.


Swelling in the salivary glands is usually due to infections, liver cirrhosis, abdominal surgery, other cancers, sarcoidosis, Sjogren syndrome, and salivary duct stones or infections. This type of tumor is usually a slow growing parotid gland benign tumor but some can be malignant.


Some signs of this condition include facial nerve palsy where it is hard to move one side of the face. There can be a painless swelling of the salivary glands that can be seen on the floor of the mouth, under the chin, or in front of the ears.


This can be seen in a physical exam but other tests may be ordered including an x-ray, CT or MRI, or a salivary gland biopsy. A biopsy will take a small piece of tissue from the area and have it analyzed for cancerous cells.


The most done treatment for salivary gland tumors is to surgically remove the tumor. If it is a non-cancerous tumor, this is all that is needed. If it is a cancerous tumor, there may be radiation, chemotherapy, or more surgery needed.

These tumors have the chance of having some complications. These can be having the cancer spread to other organs or the surgery injuring a nearby nerve. The nerve injury may result in lack of facial movement.

Source: A.D.A.M.

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