What is a Salivary Gland Tumor?

Salivary gland tumors are abnormal cells growing in the salivary gland or in the tubes (ducts) that drain the glands.

Salivary gland tumors can be noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). Although most salivary gland tumors are benign, some are malignant. It’s also possible for benign tumors to become malignant over time if left untreated.

Malignant salivary gland tumors are relatively rare, making up only 6 percent of head and neck cancers. The most common type of salivary gland tumor (~80% of all salivary gland tumors) is a slow-growing benign tumor in the parotid gland. Minor salivary gland tumors are rare.

Treatment of Salivary Gland Tumors

If you have a benign tumor, your doctor may recommend surgical removal to prevent it from becoming malignant over time. A benign tumor in the parotid gland can be removed using a surgical procedure called a partial superficial parotidectomy.

For cancerous salivary gland tumors, treatment is managed by a team of nationally recognized experts. Surgery is the main form of treatment for removing malignant tumors. Small- or medium-sized malignant tumors may be removed using partial superficial parotidectomy, but most require a more extensive surgery based on their location. Surgery can be performed in conjunction with the use of radiation therapy or chemotherapy if the disease has spread beyond the salivary glands.