Salivary gland cancer

Salivary gland cancer overview

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance is a leading center in the treatment of salivary gland cancer. SCCA's parent organization UW Medicine is one of only three facilities in the United States that offers neutron therapy, an especially powerful kind of radiation therapy that's been shown to be effective against salivary gland tumors and some other forms of cancer.

As a patient here, you'll be cared for by a team of doctors, including a medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, and a surgeon. SCCA was formed, in part, to bring promising new treatments to patients faster. This means that people who have salivary gland cancer will find more treatment options at SCCA than might be found elsewhere, including participation in one of the clinical trials conducted at SCCA and its parent organizations, Fred Hutchinson Canc

What to Expect

A diagnosis of cancer or other serious illness can feel overwhelming. We have an experienced, compassionate team of specialists ready to help you adjust to what’s happening. We have dedicated information for patient’s Practical & Emotional Support.

Ask someone you trust to go with you to doctors' appointments and tests. This person can provide emotional support. A friend can also help by keeping track of the questions you want to ask, taking notes and doing research on your disease and treatment options.

Where Will I Be Seen?

SCCA is one of only three facilities in the United States to offer neutron therapy, a type of radiation therapy shown to be very effective against salivary gland tumors. If your team at SCCA recommends neutron therapy for you, the unique Clinical Neutron Therapy System (CNTS) is available at University of Washington Medical Center, one of our parent organizations.

Your First Visit

You will have a personal care team at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance that includes a hematologist/oncologist, a nurse case manager, and a radiation oncologist, if needed. We will also involve a head and neck surgeon (otolaryngologist) from UW Medicine, an SCCA parent organization, if you may need surgery.

Before your first visit, the team will have reviewed your pathology slides (tissue samples from any biopsies) and any scans or tests you have already had. If you do not live in or near Seattle, we may ask your referring doctor to arrange for additional tests or scans so that these results are available before your appointment at SCCA.

On your first visit to SCCA, you will first meet with your doctor, who will ask you questions about your medical history and your current problem. This will be followed by a physical exam. Then, you will sit down for a conference with your doctor and other members of your team to discuss a treatment plan. This visit usually lasts two hours. We recommend that you bring a friend or family member with you to your appointment for emotional support and to help you keep track of the information your team will be giving you.


Continuing to have follow-up appointments with your doctor is very important to monitor your health during and after treatment to prevent possible complications of your disease and treatment. Depending on your condition, you may need follow-up visits as frequently as every week or only every six months. Your doctor can tell you how often you need to visit and why this schedule is important for you.


Depending on the stage of your salivary gland tumor and the effects it’s having on your body, your doctor may recommend a combination of treatment options. The right treatment for you also depends on other factors, like the position, histology, and grade of your tumor, and your overall health. (Histology is the study of tissues and cells. The histology of your tumor relates to the nature of the tumor cells.)


At SCCA, you receive care from a team of providers with extensive experience in your disease. Your team includes doctors, a team coordinator, a registered nurse, an advanced practice provider and others, based on your needs. You also have access to experts like nutritionists, social workers, acupuncturists, psychiatrists and more who specialize in supporting people with cancer or blood disorders.

Clinical trials

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) was formed, in part, to bring promising new treatments to patients faster. For salivary gland cancer patients, this means more treatment options at SCCA than you might find elsewhere, including the chance to participate in one of many ongoing clinical trials conducted at SCCA and its partner organizations, Fred Hutch and UW Medicine.