What is the definition of Salivary Gland Tumors?

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

What are the alternative names for Salivary Gland Tumors?

Tumor - salivary duct

What are the causes for Salivary Gland Tumors?

The salivary glands are located around the mouth. They produce saliva, which moistens food to help with chewing and swallowing. Saliva also helps to protect teeth from decay.

There are 3 main pairs of salivary glands. The parotid glands are the largest. They are located in each cheek in front of the ears. Two submandibular glands are under the floor of the mouth under both sides of the jaw. Two sublingual glands are under the floor of the mouth. There are also hundreds of small salivary glands lining the rest of the mouth. These are called the minor salivary glands.

Salivary glands empty saliva into the mouth through ducts that open at various places in the mouth.

Salivary gland tumors are rare. Swelling of the salivary glands is mostly due to:

  • Major abdominal and hip repair surgeries
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Infections
  • Other cancers
  • Salivary duct stones
  • Salivary gland infections
  • Dehydration
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Sjögren syndrome

The most common type of salivary gland tumor is a slow-growing noncancerous (benign) tumor of the parotid gland. The tumor gradually increases the size of the gland. Some of these tumors can be cancerous (malignant).

What are the symptoms for Salivary Gland Tumors?

Symptoms may include any of the following: 

  • Firm, usually painless swelling in one of the salivary glands (in front of the ears, under the chin, or on the floor of the mouth). The swelling gradually increases.
  • Difficulty moving one side of the face, known as facial nerve palsy.

What are the current treatments for Salivary Gland Tumors?

Surgery is most often done to remove the affected salivary gland. If the tumor is benign, no other treatment is needed.

Radiation therapy or extensive surgery may be needed if the tumor is cancerous. Chemotherapy may be used when the disease has spread beyond the salivary glands.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Salivary Gland Tumors?

Most salivary gland tumors are noncancerous and slow growing. Removing the tumor with surgery often cures the condition. In rare cases, the tumor is cancerous and further treatment is needed.

What are the possible complications for Salivary Gland Tumors?

Complications from the cancer or its treatment may include:

  • Spread of the cancer to other organs (metastasis).
  • In rare cases, injury during surgery to the nerve that controls movement of the face.

When should I contact a medical professional for Salivary Gland Tumors?

Call your provider if you have any of the following:

  • Pain when eating or chewing
  • You notice a lump in the mouth, under the jaw, or in the neck that does not go away in 2 to 3 weeks or is getting larger


Jackson NM, Mitchell JL, Walvekar RR. Inflammatory disorders of the salivary glands. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 85.

Markiewicz MR, Fernandes RP, Ord RA. Salivary gland disease. In: Fonseca RJ, ed. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. 3rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2018:chap 20.

National Cancer Institute website. Salivary gland cancer treatment (adult) (PDQ) - health professional version. www.cancer.gov/types/head-and-neck/hp/adult/salivary-gland-treatment-pdq. Updated December 17, 2019. Accessed March 31, 2020.

Saade RE, Bell DM, Hanna EY. Benign neoplasms of the salivary glands. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 86.

  • Condition: Solitary Adrenal Metastasis From Salivary Duct Carcinoma of the Parotid Gland
  • Journal: Medicine
  • Treatment Used: Surgery
  • Number of Patients: 1
  • Published —
The purpose of the study was to report on a case of salivary duct carcinoma metastasis from the parotid gland to the adrenal gland which was successfully treated by surgery.
  • Condition: Salivary Gland Carcinoma
  • Journal: Beijing da xue xue bao. Yi xue ban = Journal of Peking University. Health sciences
  • Treatment Used: Radioactive Seeds Implantation
  • Number of Patients: 43
  • Published —
This study investigated the effectiveness of radioactive seeds implantation (form of radiation therapy) in the treatment of recurrent salivary gland carcinoma after external radiotherapy (uses a machine outside the body to direct radiation beams at cancer to destroy it).