Salivary Gland Cancer

About the condition

Salivary gland cancer occurs when the genetic material of cells in the glands become damaged or changed, producing mutations that affect normal cell growth and division. The abnormal cells then replicate, causing cancer. If undetected, the cancer can spread beyond the salivary glands and move to other parts of the body.

Cancers affecting the salivary glands are rare, with approximately 690 new cases in the UK each year. They can occur at any age, but are more common in people over 50. The precise causes of salivary gland cancer are unknown, but several risk factors have been identified, including smoking tobacco, a family history of having the cancer and previous skin cancer. You can find out more about risk factors here.


The symptoms of salivary gland cancer can also indicate other conditions. These symptoms are often fairly noticeable and include:

  • a swelling on the side of the face, just in front of the ears
  • a swelling under the jawbone
  • numbness and drooping on one side of the face (facial palsy)

If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms for more than a few days, or if you have any concerns about similar symptoms, it is essential that you see your doctor at once. Alternatively you can book an appointment with one of our specialists by completing this form online or by calling 020 8247 3351.


If you’re referred to CCL for diagnosis, your consultant or oncologist will advise you on which tests are relevant to your individual symptoms. As the symptoms of salivary gland cancer can also indicate a variety of other conditions, there are numerous tests to obtain an accurate diagnosis. These include:

  • A Computerised Tomography scan, which shows a 3D image of the area being looked at
  • A Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan, a procedure that uses radio waves and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body
  • A biopsy, where cell samples are taken for examination for signs of cancer


At CCL, patients with salivary gland cancer are treated by a specialist multidisciplinary team. This team works together to create a treatment plan to suit the individual needs of the patient.

Salivary gland cancers can start in various cells within the salivary glands and may be slow or fast-growing. The type of treatment you have will depend on a number of things, including the position of the cancer, the exact type of cancer, and your general health. The following treatments may be used alone or in combination:

  • Surgery to remove the salivary glands, and potentially some of the nearby lymph nodes depending on the stage of the cancer
  • Radiotherapy, where high-energy rays are used to destroy the cancer cells
  • Chemotherapy, where chemical agents destroy the cancer cells and prevent them from spreading to different areas.

Support Services

At CCL we provide support that caters to both the physical and emotional needs of the patient, before, during and after treatment.

Treatment for salivary gland can leave you with difficulties swallowing. We understand that this can be extremely frustrating and distressing, and so at CCL we have specialist therapists on hand to help you cope with any changes you may be experiencing.

We offer a wide range of services for patients, as well as their loved ones, designed to make a very difficult time as easy as possible, and to give our patients the best treatment and support possible. Our support services include counselling, group sessions and much more. You can find the full range of our support services here. We’ll be with you every step of the way.

Book now

If you have any questions about salivary gland cancer or would like to book an appointment with one of our salivary gland cancer specialists, complete this form online or call 020 8247 3351.


Cancer Centre London

Parkside Hospital

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