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What is Parotid Gland and Its Function? Parotid Gland Cancer

Parotid gland cancer is a rare type of cancer that affects the parotid gland, which is a pair of the major salivary glands located on each side of the face. Although it is relatively uncommon, parotid gland cancer can be serious and potentially life-threatening if left untreated.

In this blog, we will provide an overview of parotid gland cancer, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and prognosis.


The parotid gland is one of the three major salivary glands in the human body, located on each side of the face, just in front of the ear. It is the largest of the salivary glands and is responsible for producing saliva, which is a fluid that helps to moisten and break down food in the mouth for easier digestion.

The parotid gland has several important functions, including:

  • Saliva production: The primary function of the parotid gland is to produce saliva, which is composed of water, enzymes, and other substances that help to break down food in the mouth.
  • Moisturizing the mouth: The saliva produced by the parotid gland helps to keep the mouth moist and prevent dry mouth, which can lead to oral health problems.
  • Lubricating the mouth: The saliva produced by the parotid gland also helps to lubricate the mouth, making it easier to speak and swallow.
  • Digestion: The enzymes in saliva produced by the parotid gland help to break down carbohydrates and other nutrients in food, which aids in digestion.
  • Immune defense: Saliva produced by the parotid gland contains antibodies and other immune cells that can help to defend against pathogens in the mouth.

In summary, the parotid gland plays an essential role in the digestion and maintenance of oral health by producing and secreting saliva.


Importance of Early Detection and Treatment of Parotid Gland Cancer

Parotid gland cancer is not common. Finding cancer early opens various treatment options. Some cancers might show signs and symptoms at an early stage but this is not always the case. Now the question is, can parotid gland cancer be found early? So, there is no such diagnostic test or routine test to detect parotid gland cancer unless a patient has its symptoms. 

There are various treatment options for parotid gland cancer according to the stages of cancer. Multiple types of treatment may be used at the same time. It is important to consider several factors when choosing a treatment option(s), including your cancer type, grade, and stage, your overall health, your chances of curing the disease, the impact of the treatment on your ability to speak, chew, and swallow, and your own preferences. 

Here are some treatment options listed below which can be performed to treat parotid gland cancer. 


Treatment Options

A. Surgery 

Surgery is the best treatment option for parotid gland cancer, and the type of surgery depends on the size and location of the tumor.

The most common surgical approach is a total parotidectomy, which involves removing the entire parotid gland along with the tumor. This is done to ensure that all the cancerous tissue is removed, as parotid gland cancer has a high chance of recurrence if any cancerous cells are left behind.

In some cases, a partial parotidectomy may be performed if the tumor is small and located in a specific area of the gland. This procedure involves removing only a portion of the gland and is typically reserved for smaller tumors that have not spread beyond the gland.


B. Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high energy or x-rays to destroy cancerous cells or halt their growth. Usually, doctors use radiation therapy in various ways. 

It can be used:

  • Along with the chemotherapy to destroy some cancerous cells of salivary glands that are not able to be treated  by the surgery only due to its location. 
  • As the main treatment when the patient is not compatible for the parotid gland surgery i.e parotidectomy
  • After the surgery to remove any cancer cell left behind after the surgery to eliminate the chances of getting cancer again.
  • After the surgery to relieve painful symptoms such as intense pain, difficulty in swallowing. 


C. Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a procedure in which medicines are given to the patient by the mouth or by the veins to allow them to reach almost all parts of the body. 

For people with salivary gland cancers, chemo is most often used:

  • In an instance when cancer spreads (metastasizes) to distant organs
  • Surgery and radiation therapy would not be effective in controlling cancer

Chemotherapy is usually used to shrink tumors. It is not a cure for this type of cancer. 


D. Targeted therapy

Drugs that target or are directed at proteins in cancer cells that aid in their growth, spread, and longevity are used in targeted drug therapy. Recent studies have revealed that some cancers of the salivary glands produce specific proteins or have gene changes that can be specifically targeted by drugs to kill cancer cells or stop their growth. Many of these medications can be taken as pills, and they don’t have the same side effects as chemotherapy (sometimes less severe).

Because they strengthen the immune system, some targeted medications, like monoclonal antibodies, have the potential to be considered immunotherapy because they have multiple mechanisms for controlling cancer cells.


E. Treatments According to the Stages of Parotid Gland Cancer

Sometimes, treatment for parotid gland cancer depends on the severity of cancer. A patient’s health condition, and the grade of the cancer can also be a factor while choosing a treatment. 

Stage I

Parotidectomy (parotid gland removal surgery) is the recommended option for patients having stage I cancer in which doctors will remove the part or complete the salivary gland. Radiation therapy might also be suggested after the surgery if there are any cancer cells left behind after the surgery. 

Stage II

In stage II also, parotidectomy is the best option to treat cancer of the parotid glands. Along with the surgery, A radiation treatment may be prescribed after surgery if you have an intermediate- or high-grade cancer or an adenoid cystic carcinoma, if you have been unable to remove the cancer completely, if the cancer has invaded nearby blood vessels, lymph vessels, or nerves, if you have removed lymph nodes that contain cancer, or if you have removed tissue that contains cancer cells along its edges.

Stage III and IV

Parotid gland cancers are even larger or more severe in III or IV stages that have started to spread outside the parotid gland. Generally doctors recommend surgery to remove the salivary gland if it is possible in this stage. For more severe cases, surgery is often combined with the radiation therapy and chemotherapy to remove the cancer cells of the parotid gland. 

It is important to work closely with your healthcare team to determine the best treatment plan for your individual situation, taking into account factors such as the stage of the cancer, your overall health, and your personal preferences.


What are the risk factors of parotid gland cancer?

There are many factors that can increase your risk of developing a disease, such as cancer. Here are some standard factors that are more likely to cause parotid gland cancer but there is no specific factors that can increase the risk of developing parotid gland cancer. 

  • Smoking: Smoking is the main cause of developing various severe problems, so quit smoking today. 
  • Radiation exposure: If you ever had any treatment to the head and neck for any disease without proper protection to parotid glands, it may increase the chance of developing parotid gland cancer. 
  • HIV Positive: In addition, people who have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) may also be at risk for salivary gland cancer. There is more evidence that this may be due to the weakened immune systems of people with HIV, but more research is needed.


Can Parotid Gland Cancers be Prevented?

While there is no surefire way to prevent parotid gland cancers, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing these types of cancers. Here are some tips:

  • Quit smoking: Smoking is one of the leading causes of parotid gland cancer. If you smoke, quitting can significantly reduce your risk.
  • Limit alcohol consumption: Drinking too much alcohol is also a risk factor for parotid gland cancer. Limiting your alcohol intake can help reduce your risk.
  • Protect yourself from the sun: Exposure to UV rays from the sun can increase your risk of developing skin cancer on your face and neck, which can spread to the parotid gland. Protect yourself by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
  • Avoid exposure to radiation: Radiation exposure can increase your risk of developing parotid gland cancer. If you work in an environment where you may be exposed to radiation, take the necessary precautions.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce your risk of cancer.

It’s important to note that even if you take these steps, you may still develop parotid gland cancer. If you notice any changes in your parotid gland, such as a lump or swelling, see a doctor as soon as possible for evaluation.


What are the Signs and symptoms of Parotid Gland Cancer?

The signs and symptoms of parotid gland cancer may vary depending on the stage of the cancer. Here are some general signs and symptoms:

Stage I

  • A painless lump in the parotid gland
  • A feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear, jaw, or neck
  • Numbness or weakness in the face

Stage II

  • A painless lump that has grown larger than in Stage I
  • Facial weakness or paralysis on one side of the face
  • Difficulty opening the mouth or swallowing
  • Pain in the ear, jaw, or neck

Stage III

  • A larger tumor that has grown into nearby tissues, such as the jawbone or facial nerve
  • Facial weakness or paralysis on one side of the face
  • Difficulty opening the mouth or swallowing
  • Pain in the ear, jaw, or neck
  • Numbness or tingling in the face

Stage IV

  • A tumor that has spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant organs
  • Severe pain in the ear, jaw, or neck
  • Facial weakness or paralysis on one side of the face
  • Difficulty opening the mouth or swallowing
  • Numbness or tingling in the face
  • Weight loss, fatigue, and other general symptoms of cancer

It’s important to note that some of these symptoms may be caused by other conditions, and a doctor should be consulted for proper diagnosis and treatment.


Best HealthCare Center for ENT Related Problems

Pristyn Care is one of the best healthcare centers in the country. We are associated with the best, well-equipped, and most modern ENT hospitals to provide the best surgical treatment to people from all the sections of the society. We have a team of the best ENT surgeons who tirelessly provide the best care to the patients. We provide a range of other services to make the treatment experience of patients as hassle free as we can. 

At Pristyn Care, we provide a thorough diagnosis for different conditions, including parotid gland issues. If you have been diagnosed with parotid gland cancer, then we can refer you to one of the best ENT hospitals near you. Contact us today to schedule your consultation with one of the best ENT surgeons available at Pristyn Care near you. Book your appointment now! 


Live Worry Free After Combating Cancer 

When treatment for parotid gland cancer is completed, people tend to feel relieved. The final results of the treatment ensure the patients are stress-free and can get back to their normal lives. But it is not the same for every patient having parotid cancer because cancer can come back even after the surgery, and it is very hard to live with the cancer. The cancer which can’t go away after the primary surgery or any other treatment may need lifelong treatments like chemotherapy or targeted therapy. 

Request a survivorship care plan from your doctor.

Discuss and create a survivorship care plan for you with your doctor. This strategy may consist of:

  • A suggested timetable for additional examinations and tests
  • A schedule for additional exams you might require in the future, like screening tests for early cancer detection
  • A list of potential late- or long-term side effects from your treatment, along with warning signs and contact information for your doctor
  • Suggestions for actions you can take to potentially improve your health, reduce your risk of the cancer returning, such as diet and exercise recommendations
  • Reminders to keep your primary care provider (PCP) appointments, who will oversee your general health care.

You should quit smoking and alcohol consumption completely

Consult your doctor if you are a chain smoker and find it difficult to quit smoking. You doctor may give you counseling or suggest some medications to help you quit. 

Take Frequent Blood Checkups

If you’ve had radiation therapy or chemotherapy, you should have regular blood tests to make sure no other diseases are manifesting themselves as a result of the radiation.

Dental exams 

Regular dental exams are frequently advised because people who have undergone surgery and/or radiation treatment may also experience dry mouth and tooth decay issues. For dry mouth, artificial (fake) saliva may be advised.


An endoscopy may be performed as a follow-up test in some patients. A typical schedule involves-

  • During the first year following treatment, every one to three months
  • In the second year following treatment, every two to six months
  • Every 3 to 5 years following treatment, every 4 to 8 months
  • After the fifth year of treatment, every year

Speech, hearing, and swallowing rehabilitation 

Speech, swallowing, and hearing issues can be brought on by radiation, surgery, and some chemotherapy medications. After therapy, a speech therapist (a professional with training in helping those with speech problems) will frequently examine and treat these. These professionals are knowledgeable about issues with speech and swallowing. They can assist you in developing problem-solving skills. Some people might need to pick up new speaking techniques. This is where the speech therapist can really come in handy.

If the treatment affects your hearing, you might also need to see an audiologist (a hearing specialist) for devices to enhance it.

Side effects from surgery

Numbness in the ears, difficulty raising your arm above your head, and weakness in the lower lip can occasionally result from jaw or neck surgery. If this occurs, your doctor may suggest that you seek the help of a physical therapist, who can show you how to perform exercises to strengthen and move your neck and shoulders.

Rehabilitation surgery

Nerves and other structures in the face and neck can be impacted by surgery or other treatments. This may alter the way you appear. Inquire with your doctor about your potential options for reconstructive surgery.


Summing Up

In conclusion, parotid gland cancer is a rare but serious type of cancer that affects the salivary glands. While there is no surefire way to prevent parotid gland cancers, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing these types of cancers. Quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, protecting yourself from the sun, avoiding exposure to radiation, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are all important measures to reduce your risk. If you notice any changes in your parotid gland, such as a lump or swelling, see a doctor as soon as possible for evaluation. Early detection and treatment can significantly improve the chances of a successful outcome.

https://www.pristyncare.com/blog/parotid-gland-cancer/ What is Parotid Gland and Its Function? Parotid Gland Cancer

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