Salivary glands

The salivary glands make spit (saliva) and release saliva to keep the mouth and throat moist and help with swallowing and digesting food. There are 3 major (large) and over 600 minor (small) salivary glands.

Tumours of the salivary glands can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).

The 3 pairs of major salivary glands include: the Parotid Gland, Submandibular glands and Sublingual glands.

  • Parotid Glands – are foundĀ just in front of the ears and behind the jaw.Ā They move saliva into the mouth through a tube called the parotid duct. This tube opens on the inside of the cheek, near the upper molar teeth.Ā The parotid gland is the largest salivary gland andĀ most salivary tumours start here.
  • Submandibular Glands – lie under the jawbone,Ā one on each side. They release saliva into the mouth through a duct (tube) that opens in the floor of the mouth, under the tip of the tongue.
  • Sublingual Glands – lie under the tongue, one on each side. They release saliva into the submandibular duct and are near the lingual nerves which give feeling and taste to the front of the tongue. The sublingual glands are the smallest of the major salivary glands.
  • Minor Salivary Glands – There are hundreds of minor salivary glands throughout the mouth and throat. They can beĀ found inside the mouth, just under the surface including theĀ lips, cheeks and top of the mouthĀ (soft palate).

The main symptoms of salivary gland cancer is a lump or swelling in one of the glands on or near your jaw, or in your mouth or neck. These lumps tend to be tender or give shooting pains. Other symptoms can include numbness in part of your face and drooping on one side of your face.