After salivary gland cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the salivary gland or to other parts of the body.
The process used to find out if cancer has spread within the salivary glands or to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment. The following procedures may be used in the staging process:
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).
CT scan (CAT scan)
A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
The following stages are used for major salivary gland cancers:
Tumor size compared to everyday objects; shows various measurements of a tumor compared to a pea, peanut, walnut, and lime
Pea, peanut, walnut, and lime show tumor sizes.
In stage I, the tumor is in the salivary gland only and is 2 centimeters or smaller.
In stage II, the tumor is in the salivary gland only and is larger than 2 centimeters but not larger than 4 centimeters.
In stage III, one of the following is true:
Stage IV is divided into stages IVA, IVB, and IVC as follows:
- The tumor may be any size and may have spread to soft tissue around the affected gland. Cancer has spread to one or more lymph nodes on either or both sides of the body and the lymph nodes are not larger than 6 centimeters; or
- Cancer has spread to the skin, jawbone, ear canal, and/or facial nerve, and may have spread to one or more lymph nodes on either or both sides of the body. The lymph nodes are not larger than 6 centimeters.
- The tumor may be any size and may have spread to soft tissue around the affected gland. Cancer has spread to a lymph node larger than 6 centimeters; or
- Cancer has spread to the base of the skull and/or the carotid artery, and may have spread to one or more lymph nodes of any size on either or both sides of the body.
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