Adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC) facts

*Adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC) facts written by

  • Adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC) is a rare form of cancer (adenocarcinoma) that most often arises in the salivary glands but may occur in other locations like the breast or uterus.
  • Symptoms and signs vary. They may cause painless masses in the mouth or face, bulging eye or vision change, changes in speech, and or respiratory problems while advanced tumors may be painful and cause nerve paralysis.
  • Treatment may include surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy. The prognosis is poor with this aggressive cancer.
  • The underlying cause of ACC is unknown but may develop from non-inherited genetic changes. There is no link between tobacco, alcohol, or HPV infection and ACC.
  • There is speculation that ACC may be associated with certain family cancer syndromes, but that remains to be determined.


Adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC) is a rare form of adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer that begins in glandular tissues. It most commonly arises in the major and minor salivary glands of the head and neck. It can also occur in the breast, uterus, or other locations in the body. Symptoms depend on the tumor's location. Salivary gland tumors may cause painless masses in the mouth or face. Tumors of the lacrimal gland may cause a bulging eye or changes in vision. Those affecting the windpipe or voice box may cause respiratory symptoms or changes in speech, respectively. Advanced tumors may cause pain and/or nerve paralysis, as ACC often spreads along the nerves. It may also spread through the bloodstream. It spreads to the lymph nodes in about 5% to 10% of cases. The cause of ACC is currently unknown. It typically does not run in families. Treatment depends on many factors and may include surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy. Unfortunately, ACC is typically an aggressive form of cancer that has a poor long-term outlook.

Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma Symptom


Paralysis is the loss or impairment of voluntary muscular power. Paralysis can result from either diseases involving changes in the makeup of nervous or muscular tissue or those that are the result of metabolic disturbances that interfere with the function of nerves or muscles. Depending upon the cause, paralysis may affect a specific muscle group or region of the body, or a larger area may be involved. When only one side of the body is affected, the condition is known as hemiplegia. In other instances, both sides of the body may suffer the effects, leading to diplegia or bilateral hemiplegia. When only the lower limbs are affected by paralysis, it is called paraplegia. When all four limbs are affected, it is referred to as quadriplegia. The term palsy is sometimes used to refer to the loss of muscle power in a body part.


The underlying cause of adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC) is not yet known, but it appears to develop from non-inherited, genetic changes that occur during a person's lifetime. These genetic changes are present only in the cancer cells, not in the cells with the genetic material that is passed on to offspring (the egg and sperm cells). The changes may be caused by exposures in a person's environment. However, no strong environmental risk factors specific to ACC have been identified. Unlike some other cancers of the head and neck, ACC is not linked to tobacco or alcohol use, or infection by the human papilloma virus (HPV).

There has been evidence that ACC tumor cells are associated with the presence of too much of a protein called "myb," and with the p53 tumor suppressor gene. This gene normally limits cell growth by monitoring the rate at which cells divide. Research is under way to better understand how ACC develops.


Head and Neck Cancers: Symptoms and Treatments See Slideshow


Adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC) is not considered to be an inherited cancer. Like most cancers, ACC appears to develop from genetic changes that are caused by something in a person's environment. In almost all reported cases, ACC has occurred sporadically in people with no family history of ACC. However, we are aware of two reports in the literature in which more than one family member had ACC. There has also been speculation about whether ACC may be associated with certain family cancer syndromes, but more research is needed to determine if an association exists.


Research helps us better understand diseases and can lead to advances in diagnosis and treatment. This section provides resources to help you learn about medical research and ways to get involved.

Clinical Research Resources

  • lists trials that are related to Adenoid cystic carcinoma. Click on the link to go to to read descriptions of these studies.


Support and advocacy groups can help you connect with other patients and families, and they can provide valuable services. Many develop patient-centered information and are the driving force behind research for better treatments and possible cures. They can direct you to research, resources, and services. Many organizations also have experts who serve as medical advisors or provide lists of doctors/clinics. Visit the group's website or contact them to learn about the services they offer.

Organizations Supporting this Disease

Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma Organization International
P.O. Box 15482
San Diego, CA 92175-5482
E-mail: [email protected]

Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma Research Foundation
P.O. Box 442
Needham, MA 02494
Telephone: (781) 248-9699

The Oral Cancer Foundation
3419 Via Lido #205
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Telephone: 949-646-8000
E-mail: [email protected]

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Medically Reviewed on 6/13/2019

Unites States. National Institutes of Health. Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. "Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma." June 21, 2017. <>.