Treatment of Recurrent Salivary Gland Cancer

Cancer is called recurrent if it comes back after treatment. Recurrence can be local (in or near the same place it started) or distant (spread to organs such as the lungs or liver).

If cancer returns after treatment, the choices available depend on the location and the extent of the cancer as well as what treatment was used the first time . It’s important to understand the goal of further treatment – whether it’s to try to cure the cancer or to help relieve symptoms – as well as the likelihood of benefits and risks.

If the cancer is thought to be resectable (able to be removed completely), surgery is usually the treatment of choice. This is often followed by radiation therapy if it wasn’t given before.

If the cancer returns in the area where it started but is not resectable, radiation therapy may be an option. Chemotherapy (chemo) may be used along with the radiation or by itself (especially if radiation therapy was already used the first time).

Cancers that come back in distant parts of the body are usually treated with chemo. In some cases, other treatments such as surgery or radiation may be used to help relieve symptoms from the spread of the cancer. If the cancer is very slow growing, it may be watched and treated only if it starts to cause problems.

Because these cancers can be hard to treat, clinical trials of new and maybe better treatments are a good option.

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.

National Cancer Institute. Salivary Gland Cancer Treatment (PDQ)-Health Professional Version. December 21, 2016.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Head and Neck Cancers. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology. Version 2.2017--May 8, 2017.

Last Revised: September 28, 2017

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