Diseases and Conditions

Salivary gland tumors

Diagnosing salivary gland cancer

Tests and procedures used to diagnose salivary gland cancer include:

  • A physical exam. Your doctor will feel your jaw, neck and throat for lumps or swelling.
  • Imaging tests. Imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT), may help your doctor determine the size and location of your salivary gland cancer.
  • Collecting a sample of tissue for testing. Your doctor may recommend collecting a sample of tissue (biopsy) for laboratory testing. During an aspiration biopsy, the doctor inserts a needle into the suspicious area and draws out fluid or cells. Salivary gland tumors are also analyzed in the laboratory after surgery to confirm the diagnosis.

Determining the extent of salivary gland cancer

After your cancer is diagnosed, your doctor will determine the extent (stage) of your cancer. Your cancer's stage determines your treatment options and gives your doctor an idea of your prognosis.

Cancer stages are identified by Roman numerals, with stage I indicating a small, localized tumor and stage IV indicating an advanced cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck or to distant parts of the body.