Prognosis and survival for salivary gland cancer

If you have salivary gland cancer, you may have questions about your prognosis. A prognosis is the doctor's best estimate of how cancer will affect someone and how it will respond to treatment. Prognosis and survival depend on many factors. Only a doctor familiar with your medical history, the type and stage and other features of the cancer, the treatments chosen and the response to treatment can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.

A prognostic factor is an aspect of the cancer or a characteristic of the person that the doctor will consider when making a prognosis. A predictive factor influences how a cancer will respond to a certain treatment. Prognostic and predictive factors are often discussed together. They both play a part in deciding on a treatment plan and a prognosis.

The following are prognostic and predictive factors for salivary gland cancer.

Stage

The stage, especially the tumour (T) category, is the most important prognostic factor for salivary gland cancer. Large tumours and tumours that have grown into tissue around the salivary glands have a less favourable prognosis.

Grade

High-grade tumours have a less favourable prognosis than low-grade tumours. This is because high-grade tumours are usually aggressive, which means they tend to grow and spread quickly. They also have a higher risk of coming back (recurring) in other parts of the body such as the lungs or bone.

Type of tumour

Adenoid cystic carcinoma has the least favourable prognosis of all types of salivary gland cancer. This is because it tends to grow into and along the nerves of the face (perineural invasion). It also tends to come back even many years after first treatment.

Expert review and references

  • Locati LD, Guzzo M, Orlandi E, Licitra L . Management of salivary gland cancer. Bernier J (ed.). Head and Neck Cancer: Multimodality Management. Springer; 2016: 36:625-640.
  • Tuluc M, Bar-Ad V, Cognetti D, Johnson J, Axelrod R . Uncommon tumors of the oral cavity and adjacent structures. Raghavan D, et al (eds.). Textbook of Uncommon Cancer. 5th ed. Wiley Blackwell; 2017: 10:134–151.
  • National Cancer Institute. Salivary Gland Cancer Treatment (Adult) (PDQ®) Health Professional Version. 2018.

Survival statistics for salivary gland cancer

Survival statistics are different for each stage of salivary gland cancer. Learn about salivary gland cancer survival by stage.