Salivary gland cancers can start in various cells within the salivary glands and may be slow or fast-growing. The type of treatment given 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:
Most salivary gland tumors require surgery. DHRC team of Surgical Oncologists strives to minimize the effects on your ability to swallow and speak and to preserve the quality of life. After surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy may be needed. In advanced cases, radiation and chemotherapy may be used initially instead of surgery.
Surgery is recommended for almost all salivary gland tumors, whether cancerous or benign. Because most salivary gland tumors occur in the parotid gland, the most common surgery needed is parotid gland surgery.
For all types of salivary gland tumors, surgery may be the only treatment needed if the tumor is benign. The surgery can be complicated because several important nerves are located in and around the salivary glands. Removing a parotid tumor (found on the salivary glands located in front of the ears) risks damaging a nerve controlling facial movement. Surgery on the salivary glands near the jaw or tongue risks damaging nerves that control tongue movement, feeling and taste.
The Surgical Oncologist may need to remove lymph nodes in the neck (neck dissection) to see if the cancer has spread. Complications from neck dissection can include ear numbness, weakness in the lower lip and difficulty raising the arm above the head.
Dharamshila Narayana’s surgical oncologist has extensive experience in surgical techniques that reduce the effects of tumor removal on a patient′s appearance. At DHRC, parotid surgery is often performed through incisions that hide scars in the skin creases around and behind the ear. In all salivary gland tumor cases, DHRC’s Surgical Oncologists are committed to minimizing the size of the surgical incision, preserving the facial nerve and reconstructing the surgery site.
Head and neck Surgical Oncologist typically perform salivary gland surgery. A pathologist works closely with the surgeon in the operating room, examining tissue immediately after it is removed to ensure all cancer is eliminated.
If a tumor is cancerous, the patient may need radiation therapy. Radiation Oncologists at DHRC use the latest radiation therapy including intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and stereotactic radio-surgery. These technologies treat the cancer while limiting radiation to critical healthy tissues such as the eyes, optic nerves, brain, brain stem and spinal cord.
Side effects from radiation to the head and neck are usually temporary and may include changes in skin color and texture (similar to a suntan or sunburn), dry mouth, sore throat, hoarseness, problems in swallowing and loss of or changes in taste and fatigue.
Chemotherapy may be used instead of or in addition to radiation therapy in patients with advanced salivary gland cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
Patients may benefit from physiotherapy to help overcome surgical complications such as difficulty in speaking, chewing or swallowing.