Salivary Gland Tumors

Salivary Gland Tumors Treatment

The salivary glands are a system or network of glands, including: parotid, submaxillary, sublingual and minor salivary glands. Their function is to secrete saliva in order to maintain an adequate level of moistness, lubrication and pH in the mouth. They are also responsible for providing proteins and liquids for the proper salivation of food.

The majority of salivary gland tumours are benign. However, despite their benignity, these tumours tend to grow and may cause facial deformity, irritation and pain, as well as affect the facial nerve, in addition, a percentage of them can malignify over time. The first priority is for the maxillofacial surgeon to rule out the presence of malignant tumours.


Although the causes of salivary gland tumors are not clear, it is known that they occur when some cells of a salivary gland have mutations in their DNA. There are some factors that can increase the risk of developing tumors of the salivary glands, for example:

  • Age: Salivary gland tumors appear more frequently in older adults, although they can occur at any age.
  • Exposure to radiation: Certain types of radiation increase the risk of tumors of the salivary glands.
  • Exposure to certain substances: People who work with chemicals may have a higher risk of developing tumors of the salivary glands. The jobs related to rubber manufacturing, asbestos mining and plumbing are the ones that present the most risk.
  • Tobacco: Tobacco increases the risk of cancer in the oral cavity, oropharynx, hypopharynx and larynx. There are more than 50 agents capable of producing cancer recognized in tobacco.
  • Alcohol: Men who consume more than three units and women who consume more than two units of alcohol per day have a much higher risk of developing head and neck cancer.


The main signs and symptoms of a tumor in the salivary glands are:

  • A lump or swelling in or near the jaw, neck, or mouth
  • Numbness of a part of the face
  • Muscle weakness on one side of the face
  • Constant pain in the region of a salivary gland
  • Difficulty to swallow
  • Problems to open your mouth a lot
  • Sensitivity in the area in front of the ear
  • Redness
  • Facial paralysis


The diagnosis of salivary gland tumors is usually made by:

  • Biopsy (fine needle aspiration)
  • Computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging

Where CT and MRI localize the tumor and describe its extension, while the biopsy will be responsible for confirming the type of cell (carcinogenic or not).

Treatment of most tumorations of the salivary glands is surgery, an intervention that requires great training and experience of the surgical equipment, since these glands are located in very delicate areas due to their proximity to the stem of the facial nerve and arteries and veins of important caliber.

Parotid tumors

Salivary gland tumours are mainly found in the parotid glands. In parotid gland surgery, the main objective is to conserve and avoid damage to the facial nerve, which is responsible for facial expression. This runs through the mass of the parotid gland, so any required surgery must be carried out by an expert team with experience in this type of intervention.

The Institute’s team of maxillofacial surgeons use a neurostimulator, a device that provides an audible interpretation, by means of electrodes, of the location of the facial nerve. Thus, when performing a parotidectomy –partial or complete removal of the parotid gland–, overall facial expression is not affected.


At Maxillofacial Institute we use a neurostimulator to prevent any involvement of the facial nerve during the removal of tumors.

The neurostimulator is an instrument that helps us detect the nerves and their branches by means of electrodes placed in the relevant muscles controlled by those nerves that are inside the operated area. Thus, during surgery we can accurately locate the presence of the facial nerve or its branches to avoid damaging them.

This instrument, together with the experience and skill of our team of maxillofacial surgeons, make maxillofacial surgery procedures at the Maxillofacial Institute very safe, simple and free of complications.

Explanatory videos and real cases