Surgery for Salivary Gland Cancer

Minimally Invasive Approach

At Scott & White, some of our operations for head and neck cancer are performed with minimally invasive techniques. Benefits of minimally invasive surgery include:

  • Better cosmetic result
  • Quicker recovery times, allowing you to:
    • Return to your daily routine sooner
    • Begin future treatment sooner
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Less pain
  • Less blood loss
  • Lower risk of infection
  • Fewer complications

Not all patients are candidates for a minimally invasive approach. Factors affecting the decision to use minimally invasive techniques include:

  • Tumor size, stage or location
  • Patient obesity and health
  • Prior surgeries

Your Integrated Care Team may recommend the surgical removal of all or part of your salivary glands. The type of surgery recommended depends on which salivary gland is affected. Your physician will discuss which option is best for you. As with all operations, there are some risks. Your surgeon will discuss those risks with you.

Your Integrated Care Team may recommend other treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, in addition to surgery.

Surgical Procedures Offered for Salivary Gland Cancer

Parotid Salivary Gland


In this complex surgical procedure for salivary gland cancer in the parotid glands, your surgeon will remove your tumor and the entire parotid gland in a total parotidectomy.

This surgery is complex because your facial nerve, which controls facial movement, extends through the parotid gland. Your Head & Neck Cancer Team at Scott & White has the experience necessary to perform this complicated operation.

If your cancer is isolated in only the outside part of your parotid gland, your surgeon will remove your tumor and the superficial lobe in a superficial parotidectomy. Your facial nerve in most cases will not be affected.

Submandibular and Sublingual Salivary Glands

Your surgeon will remove your tumor and the entire affected salivary gland. In some cases, your surgeon may need to remove surrounding tissue or bone.

This operation is complex because nerves controlling movement, sensation and taste pass through these glands. Your Head & Neck Cancer Team at Scott & White has the experience necessary to perform this complicated operation.

Minor Salivary Glands

Cancers of the minor salivary glands can be on your:

  • Lips
  • Tongue
  • Roof of your mouth (palate)
  • Throat
  • Oral cavity
  • Voice box (larynx)
  • Nose
  • Sinuses

Your surgeon will remove your tumor and some surrounding tissue.

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Special Procedures

Neck Dissection

Cancers of the head and neck in many cases spread to the lymph nodes in the neck. Your physician may recommend a neck dissection.

In this surgical procedure, your surgeon will remove abnormal lymph nodes and the fatty tissue that surrounds them.

Tube Feeding and Gastrostomy

In some cases, the treatment for your head and neck cancer may affect your ability to eat normally. Your physician may suggest tube feedings.

Your tube feeding may be brief — six weeks or less. In this approach, a narrow, flexible tube will be inserted through your nose and into your stomach to provide sustenance.

If your need for nourishment is more chronic or longstanding, your physician may recommend a gastrostomy. In this procedure, your surgeon will make a small incision in your abdominal wall and insert a tube into your stomach to provide sustenance. This may be a permanent situation.

Tube feeding and gastrostomy may be necessary so that:

  • You do not fall behind in your nutrition.
  • You receive the necessary calories and vitamins you need to heal following surgery or during your chemotherapy or radiation treatments.


In some cases, your physician may recommend a tracheostomy so that you can breathe more easily:

  • If you’ve had an operation that results in some deformity of the jaws, palate or oral cavity.
  • If you’ve had reconstruction that results in so much swelling that your airway is blocked.

A tracheostomy is a surgical procedure to create an opening through the neck into your windpipe (trachea). Your surgeon will place a thin, flexible tube through the opening to provide an airway and to remove secretions from your lungs. This tube is called a tracheostomy tube or a trach tube.

In most cases, your trach tube is temporary and will be removed when your swelling goes down and you show signs of improvement.

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