Symptoms of Salivary Gland Cancer

The effects of salivary gland cancer can vary depending on what gland is affected. In some cases, a person with salivary gland cancer may not experience any symptoms.

The three major pairs of salivary glands
Encyclopaedia Britannica/UIG / Getty Images

Symptoms of salivary gland cancer include:

  • Swelling of the salivary glands
  • Pain in the salivary glands
  • Facial tingling or numbness
  • Weakness in facial muscles caused by the tumor impinging on nerve pathways in the face
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty opening the mouth widely
  • Ulcer, lump, or bump on the lips, inside of the mouth, or inside of the cheek

If you are experiencing any of the signs or symptoms of salivary gland cancer, it is important that you see your healthcare provider. Do not wait for the effects to improve or go away on their own, because the condition can worsen if it is left untreated.

When you do visit your healthcare provider, be sure to thoroughly describe your symptoms, and include information about the timing, triggers, and any associated factors. Keeping a symptom journal can be a helpful way to document your symptoms and it can help you and your healthcare provider identify possible causes or patterns.

These symptoms can also be the symptoms of other, less serious conditions and diseases. A physical exam is the first step in diagnosing salivary gland cancer, so your healthcare provider will likely do a thorough physical examination. Depending on the results of your physical examination, your healthcare provider may recommend further testing, such as blood work or imaging tests to determine the cause

MRIs and CT scans can help your medical team get a better view of the gland. A biopsy or a fine needle aspiration may also be recommended. This invasive test is used to examine a sample of the cells taken from your lesion under a microscope, and it is used to determine whether growths are benign or malignant. Salivary gland tumors can be benign or malignant, and it is essential to determine the tumor status in order to plan treatment.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American Cancer Society. Signs and symptoms of salivary gland cancer.

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Salivary gland cancer: management and treatment.

  4. American Cancer Society. Salivary gland cancer tests.

  5. Reinheimer A, Vieira DS, Cordeiro MM, Rivero ER. Retrospective study of 124 cases of salivary gland tumors and literature review. J Clin Exp Dent. 2019;11(11):e1025-e1032. doi:10.4317/jced.55685

By Lisa Fayed
Lisa Fayed is a freelance medical writer, cancer educator and patient advocate.