Salivary gland lumps

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Salivary gland lumps are abnormal swellings or masses that can develop in any of the salivary glands in the mouth and throat area. The human body has three major pairs of salivary glands: the parotid glands (located just in front of the ears), the submandibular glands (under the jaw), and the sublingual glands (under the tongue). There are also numerous smaller, minor salivary glands scattered throughout the mouth and throat. Salivary gland lumps can vary in size, consistency, and cause, and while many are benign (non-cancerous), some can be indicative of more serious conditions, including salivary gland cancers.

 

Causes of Salivary Gland Lumps

Salivary gland lumps can arise from a variety of causes, including:

 

  • Infections: Bacterial and viral infections can lead to swelling and lumps in the salivary glands. Mumps is a well-known viral infection that primarily affects the parotid glands.
  • Sialolithiasis (Salivary Gland Stones): The formation of stones in the salivary ducts can block saliva flow, leading to swelling and sometimes infection.
  • Cysts: These can form due to injuries, infections, or duct blockages, resulting in fluid-filled lumps.
  • Benign Tumors: Non-cancerous growths such as pleomorphic adenomas are the most common tumours affecting the salivary glands, particularly the parotid glands.
  • Malignant Tumors: Salivary gland cancers are rare but can lead to the formation of lumps, often in the parotid glands.

 

Symptoms

Salivary gland lumps may present with various symptoms, including:

 

  • Visible Lump or Swelling: In the cheek, under the jaw, or on the floor of the mouth, which may increase in size over time.
  • Pain: Can be constant or intermittent, and may worsen while eating.
  • Dry Mouth: Due to decreased saliva production if the salivary ducts are blocked.
  • Difficulty Swallowing or Opening the Mouth: Depending on the lump’s location and size.
  • Facial Numbness or Weakness: This could indicate nerve involvement, more commonly associated with malignant tumours.

 

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of salivary gland lumps typically involves:

 

  • Physical Examination: Checking for lumps, tenderness, and signs of infection or nerve involvement.
  • Imaging Tests: Ultrasound, CT scans, and MRIs can help determine the lump’s size, location, and characteristics.
  • Fine-Needle Aspiration Biopsy: A small needle is used to extract cells from the lump for microscopic examination, helping to distinguish between benign and malignant lumps.
  • Sialography: A special dye is injected into the salivary glands to visualize blockages or abnormalities in the ducts through X-rays.

 

Treatment

Treatment for salivary gland lumps depends on the underlying cause:

 

  • Infections: Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics. Adequate hydration and good oral hygiene can help manage viral infections.
  • Salivary Gland Stones: Small stones might pass on their own, but larger ones may require removal, either by manually massaging them out, using shock wave therapy, or through surgical intervention.
  • Cysts: Simple cysts may be monitored for changes, while larger or symptomatic cysts might require surgical removal.
  • Benign Tumours: Surgical removal is typically recommended to prevent growth and potential complications.
  • Malignant Tumours: Treatment may involve surgery, radiation therapy, and in some cases, chemotherapy, depending on the cancer type and stage.

 

Prevention and Management

While not all salivary gland lumps can be prevented, maintaining good hydration and oral hygiene can help reduce the risk of infections and stone formation. Regular dental check-ups can also aid in the early detection of abnormalities in the mouth and throat area.

 

Conclusion

Salivary gland lumps are a diverse group of conditions that require careful evaluation to determine the underlying cause. While many lumps are benign, it’s important to seek medical evaluation for any persistent or growing mass in the salivary gland areas. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are crucial for managing symptoms and addressing any potential underlying health issues, ensuring the best possible outcomes for those affected.

When should you see an ENT specialist in Singapore?

Please consult an ENT specialist if you are suffering from any ear, nose, or throat symptoms. It is also advisable to visit an ENT doctor if you experience persistent mouth breathing due to a chronic blocked nose or encounter snoring issues.

Dr Ker Liang sees adults and children for general ENT conditions and provides comprehensive management in a broad range of Ear, Nose, and Throat, as well as Head and Neck conditions. In particular, she has a special interest in treating throat and voice conditions, including persistent sore throat, voice issues, snoring, and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA).

Medical Teaching

Assistant Professor Ker Liang has a passion for teaching and is an Assistant Professor with NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (YLLSOM). As the NUS-NUH Otolaryngology Department Undergraduate Medical Director, Dr Ker Liang supervises the training of medical students from YLLSOM, NUS. She is actively involved
in the training of postgraduate junior doctors and residents in the Head and Neck Surgery department. She was conferred with an Undergraduate Teaching Award by the National University Health System in 2016 for her outstanding efforts as an Otolaryngology educator.

Medical Teaching

Assistant Professor Ker Liang has a passion for teaching and is an Assistant Professor with NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (YLLSOM). As the NUS-NUH Otolaryngology Department Undergraduate Medical Director, Dr Ker Liang supervises the training of medical students from YLLSOM, NUS. She is actively involved
in the training of postgraduate junior doctors and residents in the Head and Neck Surgery department. She was conferred with an Undergraduate Teaching Award by the National University Health System in 2016 for her outstanding efforts as an Otolaryngology educator.

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Dr Ker Liang
ENT Surgeon

MBBS (S’pore), MRCS (Edin),
MMed (ORL), ACGME-I (ORL)

Specialising in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of conditions affecting the

ENT system, our doctor brings expertise, compassion, and a personalised approach to

every patient interaction. From common concerns such as allergies and sinus issues to

more complex conditions like hearing loss and throat disorders, our ENT specialist is

equipped to address your unique health needs with skill. 

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