Cancer is a disease that arises when the organ’s cells divide more rapidly than usual. It arises as a small lump which may eventually turn fatal, if left unnoticed. Unhealthy habits such as smoking, consuming alcohol and intaking tobacco act as a major risk factor that cause different types of cancer in the body, predominately oral cancer or cancers of the mouth. One such organ that can get largely affected due to these unhealthy habits is the salivary gland, a gland that is responsible for secreting saliva which facilitates the food processing and digestion. When the cells of this gland turn abnormal, it can lead to salivary gland cancer.
The exact cause of the salivary gland cancer is unknown, but some of the following factors are known to increase the risk of developing salivary gland cancer.
· Exposure to specific radioactive compounds will raise the risk.
· Environmental exposure to chemicals used in the leather industry, insecticides, industrial solvents, or sawdust
· Viral diseases like HIV
· A diet rich in animal fat and deficient in vegetables
The symptoms of salivary gland cancer include facial numbness, a painless lump on the face, neck, or mouth, trouble moving some facial muscles or facial weakness, swelling or discomfort in the neck, face, chin, or jawbone region. swallowing difficulties, facial muscle weakness on one side
Diagnosis and Stages
The diagnosis is initialized with a general physical examination to determine the presence of a lump or a swollen tissue, which can further be examined using the following methods.
· X-Rays of the Salivary Glands commonly known as Sialogram is performed to check for tumours
· Ultrasound, CT scan or MRI Scan is performed to confirm the presence of the tumour and to check if the tumour has migrated to the corresponding neck lymph nodes
· Fine needle aspiration or salivary gland biopsy is performed to determine the type of the tumour and to detect if the tumour is benign or malignant.
· A minimally invasive outpatient treatment called Sialendoscopy is used to find tiny tumours that could otherwise go undetected and develop into later-stage malignancy.
Once the condition is determined, doctors may recommend a variety of treatments to aid with recovery. To assure total elimination of the cancer cells, radiation treatment and surgery are often advised during the initial stages of salivary gland cancer. Stage 2 tumours are often limited to the gland and are treatable with surgery and radiation. For patients suffering from Stage 3 or Stage 4 of salivary gland cancer, a major surgery may be performed to remove both the tumour and the surrounding tissues. Targeted Drug Therapy may also be performed, especially in the last stage of salivary gland cancers, to restrict the cancer cells from growing and reproducing.
Patients suffering from salivary gland cancer must maintain a healthy lifestyle, practice proper dental hygiene, refrain from alcohol and drugs, and manage their stress as well. A healthy diet combined with regular exercise might aid in regaining energy and strength. Additionally, it is essential to visit their consulting doctors for routine medical examinations.
Salivary gland cancer can be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle and practicing good oral hygiene. Additionally, it’s crucial to refrain from using cigarettes and other addictive substances, limiting alcohol consumption, maintain a healthy weight, eating well, and engaging in regular exercise.
It is possible for symptoms to be present due to various medical disorders even if they may occasionally be hard to recognize. It is crucial to seek medical attention as soon as possible and not to ignore them.
Dr. Nishit Modi, Consultant Surgical Oncologist, HCG Cancer Centre Vadodara.