Salivary Glands Cancer

Throat and neck exam

Throat and Neck Exam

A throat and neck exam is an examination in which the doctor feels for swollen lymph nodes in the neck and looks down the throat with a small, long-handled mirror to check for abnormal areas.

CT scan

Computed Tomography Scan (CT Scan)

MRI

What Is Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)?

A magnetic resonance (REZ-oh-nans) imaging scan is usually called an MRI. An MRI does not use radiation (X-rays) and is a noninvasive medical test or examination. The MRI machine uses a large magnet and a computer to take pictures of the inside of your body. Each picture or “slice” shows only a few layers of body tissue at a time. The pictures can then be examined on a computer monitor.

Pictures taken this way may help caregivers find and see problems in your body more easily. The scan usually takes between 15 to 90 minutes. Including the scan, the total examination time usually takes between 1.5 to 3 hours.

A substance called gadolinium is injected into a vein to help the physicians see the image more clearly. The gadolinium collects around cancer cells so they show up brighter in the picture. Sometimes a procedure called magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) is done during the MRI scan. An MRS is used to diagnose tumors based on their chemical make-up.

How does MRI work?

The MRI machine is a large, cylindrical (tube-shaped) machine that creates a strong magnetic field around the patient. This magnetic field, along with a radiofrequency, alters the hydrogen atoms’ natural alignment in the body.

A magnetic field is created and pulses of radio waves are sent from a scanner. The radio waves knock the nuclei of the atoms in the body out of their normal position; as the nuclei realign back into proper position, they send out radio signals.

These signals are received by a computer that analyzes and converts them into an image of the part of the body being examined. This image appears on a viewing monitor. Some MRI machines look like narrow tunnels, while others are more open.

MRI may be used instead of a CT scan in situations where organs or soft tissue are being studied, because with MRI scanning bones do not obscure the images of organs and soft tissues, as does CT scanning.

Other related procedures that are used to assess the heart may include:

  • Resting or exercise electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Signal-averaged electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Holter monitor
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Chest X-ray
  • Computed tomography (CT scan) of the chest
  • Electrophysiological studies
  • Myocardial perfusion scans
  • Radionuclide angiography
  • Ultrafast CT scans

Biopsy

What Is a Biopsy?

A biopsy is a procedure in which tissue samples are removed from the body by a needle or during surgery, for examination under a microscope to determine if cancer or other abnormal cells are present.

By examining and performing tests on the biopsy sample, pathologists and other experts can determine what kind of cancer is present, whether it is likely to be fast or slow growing, and what genetic abnormalities it may have. This information is important in deciding the best type of treatment. Open surgery is sometimes performed to obtain a biopsy, but in most cases, tissue samples can be obtained without open surgery using interventional radiology techniques.

Some biopsies can be performed in a doctor’s office, while others need to be done in a hospital setting. Most biopsies require use of an anesthetic to numb the area and may require sedation.

Stage 1 salivary glands cancer

The cancer is 2 centimeters or less in diameter and has not spread outside the salivary glands.

Stage 2 salivary glands cancer

The cancer is larger than 2 centimeters but not larger than 4 centimeters in diameter and has not spread outside the salivary glands.

Stage 3 salivary glands cancer

Any of the following may be true:

  • The cancer is larger than 4 centimeters in diameter and has spread into the skin, soft tissue, bone, or nerve around the gland. The cancer may have spread to a single lymph node.
  • The cancer is less than 4 centimeters in size, and has spread to a single lymph node.

Stage 4 salivary glands cancer

Stage IVA
Any of the following may be true:

  • The cancer has spread into the skin, soft tissue, bone, or nerve around the salivary gland, may be as large as 6 centimeters, and may have spread to 1 or more lymph nodes, but has not spread to other parts of the body.
  • The cancer is any size and has spread to nearby tissue and has spread to a single lymph node on the same side of the neck as the cancer, to lymph nodes on either side of the neck, or to any lymph node.

Stage IVB
Any of the following may be true:

  • The cancer has spread into the bones of the skull and/or surrounded the carotid artery, the main (right and left) artery of the neck which carries blood to the head and brain, and may have spread to 1 or more lymph nodes.
  • The cancer is greater than 6 centimeters and may have spread to nearby tissues, and has spread to at least 1 lymph node.

Stage IVC
The cancer may be of any size and may have spread to nearby tissues and lymph nodes, and has spread to other parts of the body.

Recurrent salivary glands cancer

Recurrent disease means that the cancer has come back (recurred) after it has been treated. It may come back in the salivary glands or in another part of the body.

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