Salivary Gland Cancer: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 8/11/2020

Salivary gland cancer is a malignancy (kind of cancer) that begins in one of the salivary glands of the head and neck. This can occur in a small, minor salivary gland or any one of the three pairs of major salivary glands: the parotid glands, the largest salivary glands located in front of and just below each ear; the sublingual glands, found under the tongue in the floor of the mouth; or the submandibular glands located below the jawbone.

Signs and symptoms can include

  • a lump or swelling in the mouth, cheek, jaw, or neck;
  • pain in the mouth, cheek, jaw, ear, or neck that does not go away; or a
  • difference between the size and/or shape of the left and right sides of the face or neck.

Other associated symptoms and signs can be

  • numbness in part of the face,
  • weakness of the muscles on one side of the face,
  • trouble opening the mouth widely, or
  • trouble swallowing (dysphagia).

Cause of salivary gland cancer

Doctors do not understand the exact cause of salivary gland cancer.

Other salivary gland cancer symptoms and signs

  • Difference Between the Size and/or Shape of the Left and Right Sides of the Face or Neck
  • Lump or Swelling in the Mouth, Cheek, Jaw, or Neck
  • Numbness in Part of the Face
  • Pain in the Mouth, Cheek, Jaw, Ear, or Neck That Does Not Go Away
  • Trouble Opening the Mouth Widely
  • Trouble Swallowing (Dysphagia)
  • Weakness of the Muscles on One Side of the Face


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Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.