Questions to Ask About Salivary Gland Cancer

It’s important to have honest, open discussions with your cancer care team. They want to answer all your questions, so that you can make informed treatment and life decisions.

Other health care professionals, such as dietitians and social workers, can also answer some of your questions. You can find more tips about speaking with your health care team in The Doctor-Patient Relationship.

Not all of these questions may apply to you, but asking the ones that do may be helpful. Along with these examples, be sure to write down some of your own. For instance, you might want more information about your recovery time so you can plan your work schedule. Consider these questions to get you started.

When you’re told you have salivary gland cancer

  • What kind of salivary gland cancer do I have?
  • Which salivary gland is affected?
  • Is the cancer high grade (likely to grow and spread quickly) or low grade (slower growing)?
  • Has the cancer spread beyond where it started?
  • What is the stage of the cancer, and what does that mean?
  • Will I need other tests before we can decide on treatment?
  • Do I need to see any other doctors or health professionals?
  • If the cancer is stage 4, has it been tested for certain proteins or gene changes to help figure out my treatment options?
  • If I’m concerned about the costs and insurance coverage for my diagnosis and treatment, who can help me?
  • Is there a clinical trial available you think I should get more information on?

When you're deciding on a treatment for salivary gland cancer

  • How much experience do you have treating this type of cancer?
  • Should I get a second opinion? How do I do that? Can you recommend a doctor or cancer center?
  • What are my treatment options? What treatment do you recommend and why?
  • What’s the goal of the treatment?
  • Will this treatment affect the way I look? If so, what are my options for reconstruction? 
  • What if I have transportation problems getting to and from treatment?
  • What are the chances these treatments wilI cure this cancer ?
  • How quickly do I need to decide on treatment?
  • What should I do to be ready for treatment?
  • Will I need a feeding tube before starting treatment?
  • How long will treatment last? What will it be like? Where will it be done?
  • What risks or side effects should I expect from the treatments you suggest? Are there things I can do to reduce these side effects?
  • Is treatment likely to affect my speech or swallowing? Is there anything I can do to help minimize this?
  • How will treatment affect my daily activities? Can I still work full time?
  • What are my options if the treatment doesn’t work or if the cancer comes back (recurs)?

During treatment for salivary gland cancer

  • How will I know if the treatment is working?
  • Is there anything I can do to help manage side effects?
  • What symptoms or side effects should I tell you about right away?
  • How can I reach you on nights, holidays, or weekends?
  • Do I need to change what I eat during treatment?
  • Are there any limits on what I can do or what I can eat?
  • Can I exercise during treatment? If so, what kind should I do, and how often?
  • Can you suggest a mental health professional I can see if I start to feel overwhelmed, depressed, or distressed?
  • What if I need social support during treatment because my family lives far away?

After treatment for salivary gland cancer

  • Will I need a special diet after treatment?
  • Are there any limits on what I can do?
  • What symptoms should I watch for?
  • What kind of exercise should I do now?
  • What type of follow-up will I need after treatment?
  • How often will I need to have follow-up exams and imaging tests?
  • When should I have my next endoscopy?
  • Will I need any blood tests?
  • How will we know if the cancer has come back? What should I watch for?
  • What will my options be if the cancer comes back?

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

References

Last Revised: March 18, 2022

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