Salivary gland cancer

Salivary gland cancer treatment at GenesisCare

We are specialists in the latest techniques for diagnosing and treating all types of cancer, including salivary gland cancer. We have teams of highly trained cancer specialists who are experts in this disease. They work together to evaluate the newest, evidence-based approaches so we can offer these to every patient – without delay.

Chapter 1

Treatment overview

Treatment for cancers of the salivary glands may include surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, along with specialists in supporting speech, swallowing and dietary advice, if needed. We combine this with consultant-led integrative care, such as wellbeing therapies and psychological support, to help you achieve the best possible outcome. Our qualified physiotherapists and wellbeing consultants will carefully plan these therapies tailored to your needs by working with you and your consultant.

There are three main pairs of salivary glands – parotid, sublingual and submandibular – and over 600 minor salivary glands in the mouth and throatAccording to Cancer Research UK, there are around 720 new cases of salivary gland cancer each year in the UK, but early diagnosis and treatment can mean a positive outcome for most.  

We are the UK’s leading specialist private cancer care provider. By choosing us, you can be reassured that your treatment will be managed by a team of specialists working together, with you, to decide the best personalised care plan for your diagnosis. 

It is our commitment to offer world-class care to every patient with cancer. 

How are salivary gland cancers treated?

There are a number of options of treatment available for salivary gland cancers at GenesisCare, such as:  

  • Surgery – removal of the cancerous cells and surrounding tissues. This may also include reconstructive surgery 
  • Radiotherapy – high-energy radiation beams which are targeted at the cancer cells 
  • Chemotherapy – anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs which destroy the cancerous cells 

Contact us

These web pages provide more information about salivary gland cancer treatment at GenesisCare. If you would like to contact us in confidence, we will be happy to answer any of your questions.
Contact us
Chapter 2

Diagnostics

How are salivary gland cancers diagnosed?

At GenesisCare we diagnose and treat a wide range of cancers, and we understand that this can be a very worrying time. Our diagnosis services are world-class, and our commitment is to give you the answers you need, as quickly as possible. It’s important to remember that symptoms can often be caused by other conditions, not salivary gland cancer, but whatever your diagnosis we can make sure you get the expert care you need and without delay. 

If you’re concerned about salivary gland cancer symptoms, we offer fast access to specialist salivary gland cancer diagnosis and expert consultants who specialise in conditions affecting areas in the head and neck including the salivary glands, mouth and throat. They’ll assess your symptoms and, if necessary, refer you for diagnostic tests such as fine needle aspirationMRI scansCT scanning or an ultrasound scan. You may also need to see one of our speech and language specialists (SLT).  

Salivary gland cancer symptoms

The most common symptom of salivary gland cancer is a lump or swelling on the side of the face, next to the ear or under the jawbone. Other signs may include:  

  • A lump or swelling in the mouth or neck 
  • Drooping on one side of the face (facial palsy) 
  • Pain or discomfort around the area of swelling 
  • Swallowing difficulties 
  • Earache 
  • Numbness in part of your face  
  • Difficulty opening your mouth fully 

Most salivary gland tumours are benign (non-cancerous), so having one or more of these symptoms doesn’t mean you have cancer. If you have any concerns, you should seek medical advice or book an appointment through our Rapid Access Head and Neck Service. 

Rapid Access Head and Neck Service

Our specialist team of head and neck consultants can assess and diagnose conditions quickly so you can get the answers you need and plan any treatment immediately.
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Chapter 3

Surgery

Surgery is often used to remove cancerous tumours and forms part of an overall treatment and care plan for salivary gland cancer. Although it’s the most common treatment for salivary gland cancer, surgery can be complicated, as several nerves run alongside the salivary glands which control important functions such as facial movements.

Our consultants include expert surgeons from both local and nationally renowned hospitals and will work together with other cancer specialists to decide the best course of treatment for you. If your consultant recommends salivary gland surgery, this can be arranged conveniently at one of our partner hospitals. You can then continue your other treatments at GenesisCare.  

There are various procedures for salivary gland surgery, and your surgeon will recommend the most appropriate technique depending on the size and stage of your tumour.  

Most people who have salivary gland cancer surgery will only have the affected gland removed. In some cases, where the cancer can spread into surrounding soft tissue or bone, reconstructive surgery may be required. We have leading surgeons who perform reconstructive surgery to restore any soft tissue or bone that is removed during salivary gland cancer surgery. We understand that reconstructive surgery can alter your appearance and the way you feel about yourself, and our teams are committed to supporting you through these changes.  

Our team also includes specialists such as speech and language therapists and dietitians who may be involved in preparing you for surgery and helping with your recovery and rehabilitation. 

Surgery side effects

No treatment is without side effects. Your doctor will explain these to you, together with the ways your treatment plan and supportive care can help manage or minimise these. 

Chapter 4

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy uses targeted, high-energy radiation beams to destroy cancer cells. It’s often a preferred treatment option for salivary gland cancer patients who are not suitable for surgery, although it can be delivered after surgery to remove any remaining cancerous tissue. 

At GenesisCare, we are the leading private provider of radiotherapy in the UK and offer world-class expertise, state-of-the-art facilities and advanced radiotherapy techniques. Our latest-generation radiotherapy machines (called linacs) deliver highly targeted radiation beams that are designed to be effective while minimising the radiation dose to healthy tissues. 

Your treatment will be governed by our expert multidisciplinary teams (MDTs), consisting of oncologists, radiotherapists and medical physicists, who work together to ensure that you receive only the best possible care. 

Radiotherapy techniques for salivary gland cancers

Volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) is a modern radiotherapy technique that directs beams of radiation in an arc across the treatment area. Together with surface-guided radiotherapy (SGRT), it’s possible to precisely target areas of cancer, adjusting the beam and intensity of the radiation dose to allow for movements in the body and avoid healthy tissues. Side effects of radiotherapy occur when healthy tissues receive radiation, so using this technique helps to limit the dose to tissues and organs surrounding the tumourAt GenesisCare, we offer VMAT wherever possible as it is widely recognised to be the highest standard of care currently available for patients needing this type of radiotherapy. 

We also offer palliative VMAT radiotherapy for those living with advanced salivary gland cancer, where it has spread elsewhere in the body, to improve pain and increase mobility. We understand that fast access to palliative care is paramount and can usually provide treatment within 48 hours of a planning imaging scan. 

Side effects of radiotherapy

No treatment is without side effects. Your doctor will explain these to you start your course of radiotherapy, together with the ways your treatment plan and supportive care can help manage or minimise these. 

Advanced radiotherapy
Chapter 5

Drug treatments

At GenesisCare, we offer all drug therapies that can be used to treat and manage salivary gland cancer. Depending on how these treatments are given to you, you may need to attend one of our private chemotherapy suites which are staffed by our specialist nurses. Our compassionate nursing teams are available 24/7 on a dedicated on-call telephone service and can answer any queries during your treatment. They’ll be able to provide advice about side effects or symptoms and help arrange appropriate medical care when needed.

Our centres have all received the Macmillan Quality Environment Mark to reflect the quality of care we provide for people living with cancer. 

There are different types of drug treatments, also called systemic anti-cancer therapies. Our expert teams continually review and assess new treatments to make these available to GenesisCare patients as early as possible. 

Chemotherapy for salivary gland cancers 

Chemotherapy uses cytotoxic (anti-cancer) drugs to destroy cancer cells. It’s not a common treatment for salivary gland cancers, but you may have it if you’re unable to have surgery or radiotherapy.  

Chemotherapy can also be delivered alongside radiotherapy to make cancerous cells more sensitive to treatment – this is called chemoradiation. You may receive chemoradiation after surgery if there is a high-risk of your cancer coming back.  

Palliative care 

If your cancer has spread to other parts of the body, it’s called advanced or metastatic salivary gland cancer. At GenesisCare, you can receive palliative drug treatment for advanced salivary gland cancer, to reduce the size and progress of your cancer and ease any symptoms.  

Personalised medicine 

For some advanced cancers we use specialist tests, such as liquid biopsy or genomic testing, to understand the genetic make-up of cancer cells. This helps us to identify which drugs are available to work against the particular genetic mutations in a cancer, allowing us to start effective treatment without delay. 

There may also be opportunities to access clinical trials for the newest treatments for salivary gland cancer. 

Drug treatment side effects 

No treatment is without side effects. Your doctor will explain these to you depending on your drug treatment, together with the ways your treatment plan and supportive care can help manage or minimise these. 

Chapter 6

Integrative care

At GenesisCare, we do more than just treat your cancer. As part of our unique and integrative approach to cancer care, you can expect the best possible care and a personalised treatment plan that includes access to life-changing therapies which are proven to improve cancer-related outcomes. These therapies will be tailored to you to help you manage and cope with your cancer as well as the specific side effects of treatment.

Exercise medicine

Exercise medicine is a personalised programme of carefully planned and supported physical activity that has been shown to improve outcomes for cancer patients, enhancing quality of life and limiting the impact of cancer, such as by improving strength and reducing fatigue. One of our physiotherapists specialising in exercise for people living with cancer will provide a 12-week programme tailored to your needs and supported by our dedicated GenesisCare Exercise Medicine app. They’ll work closely with you to monitor changes in your health and support you throughout the programme to help you get the best results. This is available at selected GenesisCare centres. 

Wellbeing

We also offer a wellbeing expert and holistic therapies such as counselling, acupuncture, massage and reflexology through our unique partnership with the Penny Brohn UK charity. This service is available to all salivary gland cancer patients at any of our 14 UK centres 

Chapter 7

Why choose us?

GenesisCare is a leading private provider of cancer care, offering the latest innovations and techniques that are proven to be safe and effective. If you choose us for salivary gland cancer treatment you’ll be under the care of a team of experts, including consultant oncologists, surgeons, speech and language therapists (SLTs) and dietitians. They’ll design a personalised care plan based around your diagnosis and preferences, with treatment starting within days if needed. Every patient is also supported through their journey with life-changing therapies, such as exercise medicine and psychological support.

Our dedicated cancer centres are convenient and easy-to-access. You can use your private medical insurance, and we’re recognised by all leading insurers. 

Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, our priority is to continue providing the very best cancer care with meticulous measures in place to ensure our patients receive the treatments they need safely and without delay. You can find out more about our COVID-19 safety measures here. 

We are proud that so many patients rate our care as excellent as we help them through their cancer journey. Find out more about the unique experiences of people who have had their cancer diagnosis or treatment at GenesisCare in our patient stories section.