Treating Salivary Gland Cancer

This information represents the views of the doctors and nurses serving on the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Information Database Editorial Board. These views are based on their interpretation of studies published in medical journals, as well as their own professional experience.
The treatment information in this document is not official policy of the Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.
Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don’t hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.

General treatment information

After cancer is diagnosed and staged, your cancer care team will discuss your treatment options (choices) with you. Depending on your situation, you may have different types of doctors on your treatment team:

  • An otolaryngologist (also known as an ear, nose, and throat, or ENT doctor): a surgeon who treats certain diseases of the head and neck
  • A radiation oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy
  • A medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy

Many other specialists may be involved in your care as well, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, nutrition specialists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, and other health professionals.

Common treatment options for salivary gland cancer include:

Sometimes more than one type of treatment is used.

Which treatment option(s) might be best for you depends on many factors, including the type, grade, and stage of the cancer; your overall health; the chances of curing the disease; the impact of the treatment on functions like speech, chewing, and swallowing; and your own personal preferences.

It’s important to discuss all of your treatment options as well as their possible side effects with your treatment team to help make the decision that best fits your needs. If there’s anything you don’t understand, ask to have it explained. (See What Should You Ask Your Doctor About Salivary Gland Cancer? for some questions to ask.)

If time permits, getting a second opinion from a doctor experienced with salivary gland cancer is often a good idea. It can give you more information and help you feel more confident about the treatment plan you choose.

The next few sections describe the types of treatments used for salivary gland cancer. This is followed by a description of the most common approaches used based on the stage of the cancer, and information on treatment options for recurrent salivary gland cancer.