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Treatment of stage III salivary gland cancer

The following are treatment options for stage III salivary gland cancer. Your healthcare team will suggest treatments based on your needs and work with you to develop a treatment plan. The types of treatments given depend on if the tumour is low or high grade.

Low-grade tumours

You may be offered one or more of the following treatments for low-grade stage III salivary gland cancer.

Surgery

Surgery is the primary treatment for low-grade stage III salivary gland cancer. It may be the only treatment needed if the tumour is just in the salivary gland. The type of surgery used depends on the location of the tumour.

Superficial parotidectomy removes part of a parotid gland. It is used to treat a tumour in the superficial lobe of a parotid gland.

Total parotidectomy removes all of a parotid gland. It is used to treat a tumour in the deep lobe of a parotid gland.

Sialoadenectomy removes a salivary gland. It is used to treat tumours in the submandible and sublingual salivary glands.

Wide local excision removes the tumour along with a margin of tissue around it. This surgery is used to treat tumours in the minor salivary glands.

Lymph node dissection is surgery to remove lymph nodes. The doctor will remove lymph nodes near the salivary gland tumour that have cancer in them.

Radiation therapy

External beam radiation therapy may be given after surgery for low-grade stage III salivary gland cancer. It is given if there are cancer cells in the edges of the tissue removed along with the tumour during surgery (called positive surgical margins). Radiation therapy may also be given to the area where lymph nodes were removed by surgery.

External beam radiation therapy may be offered instead of surgery for low-grade stage III salivary gland tumours if surgery would cause a major change in your appearance or make it hard for you to talk or eat.

Chemotherapy

In rare cases, chemotherapy may be offered for low-grade stage III salivary gland tumours. It is used if you can’t have or don’t want to have surgery. It is also used if the tumour doesn’t respond to radiation therapy or you don’t want to have radiation therapy.

High-grade tumours

You may be offered one or more of the following treatments for high-grade stage III salivary gland cancer.

Surgery

Surgery is the primary treatment for high-grade stage III salivary gland cancer. It may be the only treatment needed if the tumour is just in the salivary gland. The type of surgery depends on the location of the tumour.

Superficial parotidectomy removes part of a parotid gland. It is used to treat a tumour in the superficial lobe of a parotid gland.

Total parotidectomy removes all of a parotid gland. It is used to treat a tumour in the deep lobe of a parotid gland.

Sialoadenectomy removes a salivary gland. It is used to treat tumours in the submandible and sublingual salivary glands.

Wide local excision removes the tumour along with a margin of tissue around it. This surgery is used to treat tumours in the minor salivary glands.

Lymph node dissection is surgery to remove lymph nodes. The doctor will remove lymph nodes near the salivary gland tumour that have cancer in them.

Radiation therapy

External beam radiation therapy is often given after surgery for high-grade stage III salivary gland cancer. It is given if there are cancer cells in the edges of the tissue removed along with the tumour (positive surgical margins) or if the tumour has grown into and along the nerves of the face (called perineural invasion, or PNI). It may also be used after surgery to remove lymph nodes to lower the chance that the cancer will come back, or recur.

External beam radiation therapy may be offered to treat symptoms caused by the cancer when the tumour cannot be removed by surgery.

Clinical trials

People with salivary gland cancer may be offered the opportunity to participate in clinical trials. Find out more about clinical trials.

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