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Follow-up after treatment for salivary gland cancer

Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. Follow-up for salivary gland cancer is often shared among the cancer specialists (oncologists), your family doctor and your dentist. Your healthcare team will work with you to decide on follow-up care to meet your needs.

Don’t wait until your next scheduled appointment to report any new symptoms and symptoms that don’t go away. Tell your healthcare team if you have:

  • new pain or pain that gets worse
  • problems swallowing or opening your mouth
  • numbness or tingling in your hands or feet
  • any new lump or swelling

The chance of salivary gland cancer recurring is greatest within 2 years, so close follow-up is needed during this time. Some types of salivary gland cancer can recur many years after treatment, so you may need long-term follow-up.

Schedule for follow-up visits

Follow-up visits for salivary gland cancer are usually scheduled:

  • every 3 months for the 1st and 2nd year after initial treatment
  • every 6 months until 5 years
  • once each year after 5 years

During follow-up visits

During a follow-up visit, your healthcare team will usually ask questions about the side effects of treatment and how you’re coping. Your doctor may do a physical exam, including:

  • checking your face and surgical site
  • feeling the lymph nodes in your neck
  • checking your teeth and mouth

Tests are often part of follow-up care. You may have:

  • chest x-ray if your doctor thinks the cancer has recurred in the lungs
  • CT scan or MRI if your doctor thinks the cancer has recurred in the salivary gland or other parts of the body
  • bone scan to look for cancer that has spread to the bone

If a recurrence is found, your healthcare team will assess you to determine the best treatment options.

Questions to ask about follow-up

To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about follow-up.


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