Treatment Options .

There are 23 salivary gland cancers. They are all rare, and even the most common, Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma, affects just 5 people in every million in the UK. At present the most common form of treatment for salivary gland cancers is surgery (where this is possible) followed by radiotherapy. Working to improve the drug therapy options for patients is one of our main aims at Salivary Gland Cancer UK.

There has been some progress in other types of salivary gland cancer. For example, in salivary duct carcinoma, there is new evidence for drug therapies targeting the androgen receptor. Chemotherapy may have some role in some types of salivary gland cancer. Your oncologist will discuss with you the therapeutic or clinical trial options which are specific to your care. 

Due to the wide range of these cancers, and the many different sites in the body where they can be found, from the head and neck, to the trachea, treatment journeys can vary widely. In the following pages we describe treatments for Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. (Please note it is general information only, and it does not constitute medical advice.)


The majority of primary tumours are diagnosed as slow growing lumps. Diagnosis usually takes place using a combination of scans and a biopsy of the tumour.

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Surgery remains the main treatment for Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. In some instances, for example when the tumour is growing on or near a vital organ, surgery may not be possible.

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Radiotherapy uses different forms of radiation to kill cancer cells.  It can also affect healthy cells. Not all types are currently available in the UK.

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Drug Therapies

These are also known as systemic therapies. They use the bloodstream to allow drugs to travel to all areas of the body to reach the cancer cells.

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More about salivary gland cancers

These are a rare group of cancers. They represent less than 5% of all head and neck malignancies and can also present in other areas of the body, including the windpipe and the vulva.

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Clinical Trials

Clinical trials aim to find out if a new treatment or procedure is safe, is better than the current treatment or helps you feel better. Trials being conducted around the world are seeking to improve outcomes for patients.

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Drug Therapies - Immunotherapy

Here the bodies own immune system is used to fight cancer by helping it recognize and attack cancer cells. Read our interview with Dr Dave Morgan talking about his research into the immune landscape in ACC tumours, and how it could accelerate the development of immunotherapy treatments.

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