What Is Salivary Gland Cancer?

Illustration of the salivary glands

The salivary glands produce saliva, the fluid that keeps the mouth and throat moist and starts the digestive process. There are major salivary glands in the floor of the mouth, under the jaw and on the side of face. There are also numerous minor salivary glands throughout the mouth and throat.

What causes salivary gland cancer?

Most salivary gland cancers are caused by previous radiation therapy to the head and neck and infection with Epstein-Barr virus — a common virus that causes infectious mononucleosis.

What are the symptoms of salivary gland cancer?

  • A lump or swelling on the side of the face or under the jaw
  • Facial weakness on one side
  • Pain in the face, the chin or the neck
  • Trouble swallowing or opening the mouth widely
  • Lump in the neck

How is salivary gland cancer diagnosed?