Tumours can develop in salivary glands and these can be malignant or benign.
Tumours within the large parotid glands are more often benign, where as in the smaller minor salivary glands present throughout the oral cavity they are more likely to be malignant.
Signs and symptoms of salivary tumours
Usually an increasing lump within the mouth, cheek, or under the jaw / upper neck. Often they have been there some time.
More concerning features suggestive of malignant tumours include:
- More rapidly increasing
- A firm lump which is fixed (hard to move)
- Facial weakness or paralysis
- Additional lumps in the neck (Lymphadenopathy)
- Numbness or altered sensation of the skin
- Redness and puckering of the skin
Investigations for salivary tumours
US + FNAC / Core biopsy
Ultrasound with either a Fine needle aspiration or core biopsy.
With this test the radiologist can make assessment about certain features of the tumour itself which can give clues to the type of tumour.
At the same time, they can accurately perform a biopsy of the tumour using a Fine needle aspiration (FNA). This involves taking a sample of cells which are then examined under a microscope by a pathologist.
Alternatively a very small core of tissue can be taken (Core biopsy).
MRI Head and Neck
This is a very detailed scan which will give the surgical team important information to plan any surgery such as extent and position of the lump, position relative to important structures.
Our specialist radiologists can also assess the likelihood of the tumour being benign or malignant based on its features on the scan.
The MRI also gives the opportunity to assess the rest of the head and neck region and the presence of any related pathology, e.g. swollen or enlarged lymph glands.
The truth is however that the investigations are not perfect. Sometimes in salivary gland surgery the definitive diagnosis is only possible after taking the tumour out. This is why its recommended that you are treated by an appropriate head and neck trained surgeon.