If you have any signs or symptoms that worry you, make an appointment with your family doctor or dentist.
If your doctor or dentist suspects you may have a salivary gland tumor, you may be referred to a surgeon who specializes in operations involving the head and neck (maxillofacial surgeon). Other specialists involved in treating salivary gland cancer may include doctors who treat cancer (oncologists) and doctors who specialize in head and neck problems (otorhinolaryngologists).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well-prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, and know what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any preappointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
- Consider taking a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For salivary gland cancer, some basic questions to ask include:
- Do I have salivary gland cancer?
- Where is my salivary gland cancer located?
- How large is my salivary gland cancer?
- What type of salivary gland cancer do I have?
- Has my cancer spread beyond the salivary gland?
- Will I need more tests?
- What are my treatment options?
- Can my salivary gland cancer be cured?
- What are the potential side effects of each treatment option?
- Will treatment make it difficult for me to eat or speak?
- Will treatment affect my appearance?
- Should I see a specialist? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover it?
- Are there brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions that occur to you during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may allow time later to cover other points you want to address. Your doctor may ask:
April 22, 2015
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
- Salivary gland cancer treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/salivarygland/healthprofessional. Accessed March 31, 2015.
- Flint PW, et al. Malignant neoplasms of the salivary glands. In: Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2015. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 31, 2015.
- Head and neck cancers. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed March 31, 2015.
- Dry mouth or xerostomia. Cancer.Net. http://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/side-effects/dry-mouth-or-xerostomia. Accessed April 3, 2015.
- Cancer-related fatigue. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed March 31, 2015.
- Cook AJ. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 17, 2014.
- Laurie SA. Salivary gland tumors: Epidemiology, diagnosis, evaluation and staging. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 6, 2015.
- Moynihan TJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 6, 2015.