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Salivary Gland Cancer


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Cancer forms in tissues of salivary glands, including the parotid, submandibular, and sublingual glands and other minor glands located throughout the palate, nasal and oral cavity.

Why Choose Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center?

Sylvester is an NCI-designated cancer center. The National Cancer Institute has recognized Sylvester for its outstanding work conducting research in its laboratories, treating patients in its clinics and hospitals, and reaching out to medically underserved communities with innovative prevention strategies.

Ranked in the nation’s top tier by U.S. News & World Report. The ranking reflects the team’s dedication to excellence in research patient care and outcomes. Surgeons, audiologists, biomedical engineers, speech pathologists, researchers, and psychologists collaborate with many research programs at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine to deliver the best possible multidisciplinary care to pediatric and adult ear, nose, and throat patients.

More board-certified head and neck surgical specialists than any other South Florida provider. Our team offers advanced, simplified surgery solutions. In the majority of cases requiring reconstruction, you have just one operation for cancer removal and any reconstructive surgery. Sylvester is one of the best places in the country for simultaneous head and neck cancer surgery and microvascular reconstruction.

One of the best multidisciplinary speech and swallowing rehabilitation programs in the country. If you undergo surgery affecting your jaw, face, and/or neck, you will be personally supported by some of our nation’s top experts to restore your quality of life.

Advanced radiation oncology tools. Our RapidArc® radiotherapy system delivers intensity modulated external radiation therapy (IMRT). These tools lead to more efficient and effective treatments, shorter treatment times, pinpoint accuracy in tumor targeting, and less damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

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At Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, each cancer has a wide range of treatments that can be used alone or in combination to give the best outcome for your specific cancer, including standard therapies and novel therapies only available in clinical trials. That’s why careful diagnosis is so important.

  • Surgery

    Surgery is often the first treatment for salivary gland cancer if all the cancerous tissue can be removed.

    Nearby areas of soft tissue may be removed as well. If the cancer is likely to grow and spread quickly or if it has already spread to lymph nodes, the surgeon will usually remove lymph nodes from the same side of the neck.

    Most salivary gland tumors grow in the parotid gland. The facial nerve that controls movement on the same side of the face passes through this gland. It is very important for such a surgery to be done at a skilled center like Sylvester.

    Submandibular or sublingual gland cancers require your Sylvester surgeon to make a small cut in the skin. He or she removes the entire salivary gland and often some of the surrounding tissue or bone. Nerves passing through or near these glands are sensitive. These nerves control the movement of your tongue and lower face, as well as sensation and taste. This makes it very important for such a surgery to be done at a skilled center like Sylvester.

    Reconstructive Surgery: Sometimes, head and neck surgeries can cause substantial cosmetic changes while removing any cancer. Your Sylvester head and neck experts will plan before any treatment starts for both the cancer removal and any bone or tissue reconstruction.

    • Often these reconstructive procedures can utilize small pieces of tissue, skin or bone from your own body for a more natural look and feel — such as from your lower leg, shoulder blade, chest, forearm, and other areas.

    • Another option is to develop an artificial replacement called a prosthesis. Sylvester's head and neck cancer team works with our prosthodontist. A prosthodontist is a dentist who specializes in making replacements for teeth and other facial structures.

    • Custom prosthetic facial parts also can be created for you when needed. These prosthetics are designed to blend into your face, head, and neck.
  • Radiation Therapy

    Radiation therapy may be used as the main treatment (alone or with chemotherapy) for some salivary gland cancers that can't be removed by surgery. It may be used after surgery, or with chemotherapy, when cancer is aggressive, or in people with advanced salivary gland cancer. Chemotherapy can help with symptoms such as pain, bleeding, or trouble swallowing.

    • Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT): You benefit from Sylvester's experience as a world leader in treating head and neck cancers with IMRT, an advanced form of external beam radiation therapy. This therapy allows radiation specialists to shape radiation doses to the exact three-dimensional size of your tumor. The precise control and flexibility of IMRT helps us reduce radiation going to surrounding healthy tissue.


    Chemotherapy is not often used to treat salivary gland cancers. Some doctors may use it along with radiation therapy to try to make the radiation more effective. More often, it is used in patients whose cancer has spread (metastasized) to distant organs and in patients whose cancers could not be controlled by surgery and radiation therapy. Chemotherapy sometimes shrinks tumors in these patients, but it’s not likely to cure this type of cancer. Chemotherapy drugs we use for head and neck patients do not typically cause you to lose your hair. 

    • Intravenous (infusion) chemotherapy is available at the Comprehensive Treatment Unit (CTU) of Sylvester's Miami location, a 12,000-square-foot unit that includes 33 recliners and 11 private rooms. If you prefer, you may have your infusion treatments at the Deerfield Beach, Plantation, Hollywood, Coral Springs, Coral Gables, and Kendall locations.


In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, procedures for diagnosing head and neck cancers may include the following:

  • Endoscopic Ultrasound

    This exam uses a long, thin, flexible tube called an endoscope with a light at the end. It is put in through the nose so the doctor can get a close look at the inside of your nasal cavity, the back of your nose, throat, and voice box. The endoscope has a tool on its end that the surgeon uses to remove samples of suspicious tissue.

  • Computed Tomography (CT or CAT Scan)

    X-ray pictures are taken from many angles inside your body. A computer then creates a detailed 3-D image. CT scans can be used to check the head and neck and are sometimes used to evaluate the chest.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

    Images are created by a machine that uses magnets and radio waves. Your doctor will look for cancer in the image details.

  • Biopsy

    A biopsy, taking a sample of the suspicious tissue, is the only sure way to know if you have cancer. The sample is checked by a pathologist who looks at the tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells. The tissue is removed from the primary tumor site in the head/neck area. If the suspicious area is a lump or lymph node on your neck, your doctor uses a process called fine needle aspiration to check for cancerous cells in your lymph nodes.

  • Chest X-ray or Chest CT Scan

    This X-ray helps us see any cancer that has spread to your lungs.

  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan

    This test measures metabolic activity in your body tissue. Radioactive material in small amounts is injected into a vein. The radioactive material is seen in the images as highlighted places where cancer cells could be growing.

  • Staging Head and Neck Cancers

    Staging is the word used to describe how early or advanced a cancer is and how fast it is growing. Stages range from I (low) to IV (advanced). Staging helps us to decide what treatment might be best for your cancer.  

  • Chest X-ray or Chest CT Scan

    This X-ray helps us to see cancer cells that spread to your lungs. 

Accepted Insurances

Note: Health plans that are currently contracted with UHealth are listed below. However, please check with your insurance provider to verify that UHealth is part of your provider network.