The term “salivary gland cancer” represents a diverse group of malignant tumors. These tumors may occur in different types of salivary glands and originate from a variety of cell types. These characteristics impact prognosis and treatment options.
Salivary glands are classified as major or minor. The major salivary glands come in pairs, and are much larger than the minor salivary glands. The major salivary glands are:
Parotid glands - the largest of the salivary glands, located immediately in front of and below each ear
Sublingual glands –these glands are located under the tongue
Submandibular glands – these glands are located beneath the mandible, or jawbone.
The minor salivary glands are very small, and are located in the mucosa (mucous membranes) of the lips and cheeks, hard and soft palate, uvula, the floor of the mouth, the back of the tongue, and the area near the tonsils, among other areas of the mouth and throat. Most tumors of the minor salivary glands are located in the hard palate, which has the greatest concentration of minor salivary glands in the mouth.