Non-cancerous tumours of the salivary gland

A non-cancerous (benign) tumour of the salivary gland is a growth that does not spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Non-cancerous tumours are not usually life-threatening. They are typically removed with surgery and do not usually come back (recur).

There are many types of non-cancerous tumours of the salivary glands.

Pleomorphic adenoma

Pleomorphic adenoma is the most common non-cancerous salivary gland tumour. It may also be called a benign mixed tumour. Pleomorphic adenoma tumours are most often found in a parotid gland. It can also start in a submandibular salivary gland or in the minor salivary glands of the hard palate and upper lip.

Pleomorphic adenoma can recur after surgery, especially when the tumour was in a parotid gland.

There is a very small risk that pleomorphic adenoma carcinoma can change into a rare cancerous tumour called carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenocarcinoma. The risk of a cancerous change is higher if a tumour has been removed several times.

Warthin tumour

Warthin tumour is the 2nd most common non-cancerous salivary gland tumour. It may also be called papillary cystadenoma lymphomatosum or adenolymphoma.

Warthin tumours are found most often in a parotid gland. This type of tumour also can occur in both parotid glands at the same time (called bilateral).

These tumours rarely come back after they are removed with surgery.

Rare non-cancerous salivary gland tumours

The following non-cancerous salivary gland tumours are rare or very rare.

  • oncocytoma (oxyphilic adenoma)
  • myoepithelioma

  • ductal papilloma

  • basal cell adenoma

  • canalicular adenoma

  • cystadenoma

  • lymphadenoma

  • sialadenoma papilliferum

  • sialolipoma

  • sebaceous adenoma

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Salivary Gland Cancer. American Cancer Society; 2014: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/salivaryglandcancer/index.
  • Bar-Ad V, Tuluc M, Cognetti D & Axelrod R . Uncommon tumors of the oral cavity and adjacent structures. Raghavan D, Blanke CD, Honson DH, et al. (eds.). Textbook of Uncommon Cancer. 4th ed. Wiley Blackwell; 2012: 6:pp. 97-117.
  • Cahin F . Salivary gland tumors, minor, benign. eMedicine.Medscape.com. WebMD LLC; 2013: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/194522-overview.
  • Chahin F . Salivary gland tumors, major, benign. eMedicine.Medscape.com. WebMD LLC; 2013: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/194357-overview.
  • Dubner S . Benign parotid tumors. eMedicine.Medscape.com. WebMD LLC; 2013: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1289560-overview.
  • Mendenhall WM, Werning JW and Pfister DG . Treatment of head and neck cancer. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, & Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology. 9th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2011: 72:729-80.
  • National Cancer Institute. Salivary Gland Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) Health Professional Version. 2014.