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.
Taking action against all cancers
The latest Canadian Cancer Statistics report found that of all newly diagnosed cancers in 2017, half are expected to be lung, colorectal, breast and prostate cancers. Learn what you can do to reduce the burden of cancer.