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Salivary Gland Cancer Symptoms

Salivary gland cancer symptoms appear in either the parotid gland (largest salivary gland which secretes saliva) or in the submandibular glands (salivary glands found below the floor of the mouth). 80 percent of this cancer is found in the former gland. The rest of the signs of this disease appear under the tongue or below the jawbone.

Cause of salivary gland cancer is not known. Most of the tumors of this disease are benign type (non-cancerous and do not spread to other surrounding organs). This article tries to gain further knowledge on the signs of this rare cancer.

Salivary Gland Cancer Symptoms: The salivary gland produces the saliva. It contains enzymes and antibodies. The enzymes help in the digestion of the food and antibodies protect the mouth from infection. Elderly people, radiation therapy patients and people exposed to certain substances are at higher risks of developing this disease.

When cancer develops in this organ, the signs remain mostly latent. Sometimes appearance of these signs can indicate presence of other types of cancer. A doctor should be consulted when these following symptoms become apparent:

  • Difficulty in opening the mouth widely
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Numbness in one part of the face
  • Continuous pain in the salivary gland
  • Weakness in the muscles on one side of the face
  • Swelling in the mouth, neck or near the jaw
  • Draining of fluid from the ear

Diagnosis of Salivary Gland Cancer Symptoms: It is hard to diagnose this cancer as it is rare and asymptomatic in most cases. Some of the techniques which can help in revealing the signs sooner or later are:

  • Physical Exam and History: Signs of the disease like lumps are checked in head, neck, mouth, and throat. The doctor knows from the patient about past illnesses and treatment taken.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging MRI: This procedure provides detailed pictures of the affected organ using a big magnet, radio waves and a computer.
  • CT Scan: It is a similar procedure like MRI where X-rays and computer are used to take pictures of the area suspected of cancer.
  • Positron Emission Tomography Scan: Cancerous cells absorb more sugar than the healthy cells. When a small amount of radioactive sugar is injected into a patient’s body, the tumor can be located by tracking the path of the sugar in the body by a scanning device.
  • Ultrasound Exam: High energy sound waves are made to fall on the suspected location of the tumor. When these waves get reflected, there are changes in waves pattern which are captured by device. Malignant cells look different from normal cells in the developed pictures.
  • Endoscopy: A thin, tube-like instrument with a light source and a lens attached is inserted into the mouth. Affected tissues in the mouth, throat and larynx can be observed in a monitor.
  • Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy: A small portion of the affected tissue or fluids in the area is removed using a thin needle. The tissue or fluid is placed under a microscope to look for the presence of cancer cells.

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