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Malignant (cancerous) salivary tumours: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About malignant (cancerous) salivary tumours

Malignant salivary tumours refer to the cancerous growth in the salivary glands. Salivary glands are small glandular structures located in the mouth and are responsible for producing salivary enzymes. There are three major pairs of salivary glands namely Parotid, Submandibular and Sublingual glands along with minor glands in the oral cavity.

Malignant (cancerous) salivary tumours: Incidence, age and sex

Malignant salivary tumour is one of the rarest of cancers. Salivary gland tumours are mainly benign in nature. However occasionally, such tumours may become malignant and show rapid growth and invasion to other tissues. It is usually seen in individuals, after 30 years of age.

Signs and symptoms of malignant (cancerous) salivary tumours: Diagnosis

The primary clinical features of malignant salivary tumour include swelling or lump inside the mouth, in the region of ear, cheek, jaw or lip which may rapidly grow. Such a lump is usually painful. The affected individual may complain of difficulty in opening the mouth widely or difficulty in swallowing. Sometimes, paralysis of the facial muscles may ensure an increased cancerous swelling in the mouth, due to invasion of the facial nerve.

The specialist may need to do radiological imaging like CT or MRI scans, to assess the location and spread of the cancer cells. Eventually, the diagnosis is established by biopsy (taking a small specimen of the affected tissue) followed by its microscopic examination.

Causes and prevention of malignant (cancerous) salivary tumours

The cause of malignant salivary tumour is not very clear. However, it has been postulated that frequent exposure to radiation or wood dust may play a role in the causation of this tumour. Moreover, genetic or familial factors may also play a role in the causation.

Any infection, non-healing ulcer or swelling around the oral cavity, should be investigated and treated timely. Early detection of cancer can help in effective treatment and prevent the spread of cancer cells to other areas in the body.

Malignant salivary (cancerous) tumour: Complications

Malignant salivary tumour is characterized by severe pain in the cancerous lesion. It may invade the adjacent tissues or even spread to distant locations, through lymphatic channels. The diagnosis may cause intense emotional distress to the patient and also impairs his/her food intake and nourishment.

Malignant salivary (cancerous) tumour: Treatment

Malignant salivary tumour is a rapidly progressive cancer which requires surgery along with radiotherapy. Surgical resection of the cancerous growth constitutes the mainstay of treatment. This is followed by radiation therapy, which uses high energy rays to destroy the cancer cells. The prognosis of malignant salivary tumours is not very favourable and has a low survival rate.