Surgery for salivary gland cancer
Most salivary gland tumours affect a parotid gland. Surgery to remove part or all of a parotid gland is called a parotidectomy. The facial nerve, which controls facial expressions and movement of the eyelid and lip, runs through the parotid gland. If this nerve is damaged during surgery, you may be unable to smile, frown or close your eyes. This is known as facial palsy, and it can take months to a year for movement to improve. In some cases, the facial nerve may need to be repaired with a nerve from another part of the body, often from the leg (nerve graft). If the facial nerve is removed (facial nerve sacrifice), there are procedures that can improve the way your face moves and looks, but it will not look or work the same as before the surgery.
If the cancer affects a submandibular gland or sublingual gland, the gland will be removed, along with some surrounding tissue. Nerves controlling the tongue and lower part of the face may be damaged, causing some loss of function. If the cancer is in a minor salivary gland, it may be removed with endoscopic surgery.
A/Prof David Wiesenfeld, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, Director, Head and Neck Tumour Stream, The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre at Melbourne Health, VIC; Alan Bradbury, Consumer; Dr Ben Britton, Senior Clinical and Health Psychologist, John Hunter Hospital, NSW; Dr Madhavi Chilkuri, Radiation Oncologist, Townsville Cancer Centre, The Townsville Hospital, QLD; Jedda Clune, Senior Dietitian (Head and Neck Cancer), Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Dr Fiona Day, Staff Specialist, Medical Oncology, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Senior Lecturer, The University of Newcastle, NSW; Dr Ben Dixon, ENT, Head and Neck Surgeon, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC; Emma Hair, Senior Social Worker, St George Hospital, NSW; Rosemerry Hodgkin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Kara Hutchinson, Head and Neck Cancer Nurse Coordinator, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Julia Maclean, Speech Pathologist, St George Hospital, NSW; Prof Jane Ussher, Chair, Women’s Health Psychology, Translational Health Research Institute (THRI), School of Medicine, Western Sydney University, NSW; Andrea Wong, Physiotherapist, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.