Salivary gland cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that starts in one of the three sets of salivary glands. Even if cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is still referred to as salivary gland cancer. Most of the time, salivary gland cancer starts in the parotid glands—the largest salivary glands which are located in front of the ears. 10-20% of the time, cancer will begin in the submandibular glands, which are located below the jaw. It is very rare that salivary gland cancer will start in the sublingual glands, which are the smallest salivary glands, located on the floor of the mouth. This type of cancer is very rare, accounting for less than 1 percent of all cancers, with an estimated 2,000-2,500 people affected annually in the United States.
A person with salivary gland cancer may have a noticeable lump on one side of their face or neck. The lump may not be painful at all, but in most cases, it does indicate a growth. According to the Mayo Clinic, most salivary gland tumors are noncancerous (benign), although they may lead to other complications like infection or a stone in the salivary gland duct.
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