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

  • Dubner S. Medscape Reference: Benign Parotid Tumors. 2017.
  • Eliason MJ. Medscape Reference: Benign Tumors of Major Salivary Glands. 2017.
  • Deschler DG, Emerick KS, Wirth LJ, Busse PM . Management of salivary gland tumors: general principles and management. Harrison LB, Sessions RB, Kies MS (eds.). Head and Neck Cancer: A Multidisciplinary Approach. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014: 25(A): 697-724.
  • 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.

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

We do our best to make sure that the information we provide is accurate and reliable but cannot guarantee that it is error-free or complete.

The Canadian Cancer Society is not responsible for the quality of the information or services provided by other organizations and mentioned on, nor do we endorse any service, product, treatment or therapy.

1-888-939-3333 | | © 2024 Canadian Cancer Society