Problems that prevent your salivary glands from producing saliva are often referred to as salivary gland disease. These problems may be caused by blockages or infections, and can be cancerous or noncancerous (benign). They include:
- Benign salivary gland tumors
- Salivary gland cancer
- Sialadenitis (salivary gland infection)
- Sialolithiasis (salivary stones)
Who Should See a Salivary Gland Specialist?
Salivary gland disorders can cause various symptoms. These include:
- A lump on the roof of your mouth or under your tongue or chin
- Dry mouth
- Foul taste in the mouth
- Mouth sores
- Swelling in your cheek or neck
- Trouble eating or swallowing
If you have any of these symptoms, you should see an otorhinolaryngologist (ENT specialist). See if your health insurance plan requires a referral; if so, you’ll need to start with a primary care provider. If you already have a referral, or you don’t need one, you can make an appointment with the ENT team at Rush.
Salivary Gland Disease Care at Rush
Because salivary gland problems are relatively rare, you should seek care from providers who have experience diagnosing and treating them. That’s what you’ll find at Rush.
Advanced Diagnostic Procedures
Rush otorhinolaryngology specialists use innovative tools and techniques that make it easier to distinguish complex salivary gland problems from other conditions. These procedures include:
- Biopsy: Collects cells from a suspicious lump to see if they’re cancerous. Rush offers in-office biopsies with same-day results.
- Sialendoscopy (salivary endoscopy): Uses a semi-rigid tube (endoscope) that’s only 1.3 mm wide to see inside a salivary gland. Rush otorhinolaryngologists were among the first in Illinois to offer this procedure.
- Sialogram: Uses a unique MRI sequence developed by Rush specialists to assess the salivary ducts without using an IV or an endoscope.
Innovative Surgical Approaches
Certain salivary gland problems, including stones and infections, may be managed with minor treatments. These include antibiotics, warm compresses and gland massage.
But people with tumors, large stones or stones embedded deep in the gland may need surgery. Rush offers advanced surgical procedures that aren’t widely available, including:
- Sialendoscopy: The same endoscopic procedure used to diagnose salivary gland disease can also treat it. Instead of removing the problem gland, which is a common treatment throughout the U.S., Rush specialists can remove stones or widen salivary ducts using sialendoscopy. Compared to traditional salivary gland removal, this approach greatly reduces the risk of nerve damage and won’t leave a visible scar. It relieves discomfort for most patients in just 15 minutes, while leaving the repaired, functioning gland intact.
- Nerve-sparing tumor removal: Our team uses sophisticated microsurgery techniques to remove cancerous and noncancerous salivary gland tumors, including parotid gland tumors. These techniques minimize the risk of damage to nearby facial nerves, which control your ability to smile, raise your eyebrows, and open and close your eyes.
Rush Excellence in Salivary Gland Disease Care
- Among the best in the U.S. for ENT services: U.S. News & World Report has ranked Rush University Medical Center’s otorhinolaryngology, head and neck surgery program among the best in the nation.
- Experience that matters: Rush specialists lead one of the largest and busiest sialendoscopy programs in the state, performing an average of 70 to 80 procedures each year. This means they have the skills and experience necessary to perform sialendoscopies safely and successfully.
- Complete care for salivary gland cancer: If you need treatment for salivary gland cancer, you’ll work with the nationally renowned head and neck cancer team at Rush. You’ll receive a personalized treatment plan that includes all the care and support you may need, from surgery to survivorship.