Treatment of Salivary Gland Cancer
Different types of treatment are available for patients with salivary gland cancer. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. Three types of standard treatment are used:
SurgerySurgery (removing the cancer in an operation) is a common treatment for salivary gland cancer. A doctor may remove the cancer and some of the healthy tissue around the cancer. In some cases, a lymphadenectomy (surgery in which lymph nodes are removed) will also be done. Even if the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the surgery, some patients may be given radiation therapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Treatment given after surgery, to lower the risk of recurrence of cancer, is called adjuvant therapy.
Radiation TherapyRadiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. Special types of radiation may be used to treat some salivary gland tumors. These include:
- Fast neutron radiation therapy: Fast neutron radiation therapy is a type of high-energy external radiation therapy. A radiation therapy machine aims tiny, invisible particles, called neutrons, at the cancer cells to kill them. Fast neutron radiation therapy uses a higher-energy radiation than the x-ray type of radiation therapy. This allows the radiation therapy to be given in fewer treatments.
- Photon-beam radiation therapy: A type of radiation therapy that reaches deep tumors with high-energy x-rays made by a machine called a linear accelerator. This can be delivered as hyper-fractionated radiation therapy, in which the total dose of radiation is divided into small doses and the treatments are given more than once a day.