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Disease Profile

Salivary gland cancer, adult

Prevalence estimates on Rare Medical Network websites are calculated based on data available from numerous sources, including US and European government statistics, the NIH, Orphanet, and published epidemiologic studies. Rare disease population data is recognized to be highly variable, and based on a wide variety of source data and methodologies, so the prevalence data on this site should be assumed to be estimated and cannot be considered to be absolutely correct.


US Estimated

Europe Estimated

Age of onset





Autosomal dominant A pathogenic variant in only one gene copy in each cell is sufficient to cause an autosomal dominant disease.


Autosomal recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of each gene of the chromosome are needed to cause an autosomal recessive disease and observe the mutant phenotype.


dominant X-linked dominant inheritance, sometimes referred to as X-linked dominance, is a mode of genetic inheritance by which a dominant gene is carried on the X chromosome.


recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of a gene on the X chromosome cause an X-linked recessive disorder.


Mitochondrial or multigenic Mitochondrial genetic disorders can be caused by changes (mutations) in either the mitochondrial DNA or nuclear DNA that lead to dysfunction of the mitochondria and inadequate production of energy.


Multigenic or multifactor Inheritance involving many factors, of which at least one is genetic but none is of overwhelming importance, as in the causation of a disease by multiple genetic and environmental factors.


Not applicable



Rare Cancers


Salivary gland cancer is a rare disease in which cancerous cells form in the tissues of the salivary glands. The salivary glands make saliva and release it into the mouth. Saliva has enzymes that help to digest food and antibodies that help protect against infections of the mouth and throat. There are 3 pairs of major salivary glands: the parotid glands, the sublingual glands, and the submandibular glands. The National Cancer Institute provides a picture of the anatomy of the salivary glands

Some risk factors for salivary gland cancer are older age, exposure to radiation of the head and/or neck area, and family history. Signs and symptoms of the disease may include: a lump near the ear, cheek, jaw, lip, or inside of the mouth; trouble swallowing; fluid draining from the ear; numbness or weakness in the face; and on-going pain in the face.

Different types of treatment are available for patients with salivary gland cancer. Some treatments are standard (currently used by physicians) and some are being tested in clinical trials (by researchers). It is suggested that patients with salivary gland cancer have their treatment planned and managed by a team of doctors who are experts in treating head and neck cancer. Although treatment depends on the stage of the cancer, typically the following three treatments are used: (1) surgery, (2) radiation therapy, and (3) chemotherapy. [1] [2]

Learn more

These resources provide more information about this condition or associated symptoms. The in-depth resources contain medical and scientific language that may be hard to understand. You may want to review these resources with a medical professional.

Where to Start

  • The American Cancer Society has developed an information page on salivary gland cancer. Click on the link to view the information page.
  • MedlinePlus was designed by the National Library of Medicine to help you research your health questions, and it provides more information about this topic.
  • The National Cancer Institute provides the most current information on cancer for patients, health professionals, and the general public.

In-Depth Information

  • PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Salivary gland cancer, adult. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.


  1. Salivary Gland Cancer Treatment. National Cancer Institute. 10/08/2014; https://www.cancer.gov/types/head-and-neck/patient/salivary-gland-treatment-pdq. Accessed 6/1/2015.
  2. Salivary Gland Cancer. American Cancer Society. 2015; https://www.cancer.org/cancer/salivaryglandcancer/detailedguide/index. Accessed 6/1/2015.