What Is Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma? Everything to Know
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Symptoms can depend on the size and location of the carcinoma. When it affects the salivary glands, common symptoms include facial numbness, weakness, and pain.
Read on to find out more about the symptoms of adenoid cystic carcinoma. This guide also includes causes, treatments, diagnosis, and more information.
Adenoid cystic carcinoma may develop slowly over several years. In some cases, you may not experience any symptoms.
Symptoms that may occur can depend on the location and size of the tumor.
Salivary gland symptoms
If adenoid cystic carcinoma grows in the salivary gland, you may experience symptoms including:
- painless lump in your mouth, neck, or face
- facial numbness
- facial muscle weakness or drooping
- difficulties swallowing
- difficulties opening your mouth
Lacrimal gland symptoms
The lacrimal gland is responsible for producing tears. If the tumor grows in the lacrimal gland, your symptoms may include:
- changes in your vision
- a bulging eye
Larynx and trachea symptoms
You may know the larynx and trachea as the voice box and windpipe, respectively. If the tumor grows here, symptoms can include:
Adenoid cystic carcinoma can begin in the skin. Skin symptoms can include:
- increased sensitivity
- bloody discharge
An adenoid cystic carcinoma tumor can also begin in the breast. When this happens, you may experience a tender or painful lump that grows slowly.
Adenoid cystic carcinoma is a type of adenocarcinoma. Learn more about the types and symptoms of adenocarcinoma.
Researchers do not know the exact cause of adenoid cystic carcinoma.
However, genetic changes or mutations may be responsible for the development of the condition. In particular, research focuses on a protein resulting from the MYB-NFIB gene fusion. The fusion protein is present in around 90–95% of adenoid cystic carcinoma tumors.
You will likely require surgery for adenoid cystic carcinoma. Your surgeon will remove the tumor and affected tissue.
Your doctor may recommend radiation therapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells after surgery or as an alternative. Your doctor will be able to advise on whether or not surgical removal is possible.
Chemotherapy does not effectively treat adenoid cystic carcinoma.
Learn more about surgery for head and neck cancer.
Contact a doctor as soon as you have concerns about adenoid cystic carcinoma.
You may not experience symptoms of adenoid cystic carcinoma. Contacting your doctor as soon as you notice symptoms will help ensure diagnosis and treatment as early as possible.
View our Cancer Appointment Guide for advice ahead of your appointment.
To help reach an accurate diagnosis, your doctor may take a full medical history and perform a physical examination. They will then order tests to confirm the cause of your symptoms.
Tests your doctor arranges may depend on which symptoms you experience. Possible tests include:
- biopsy to remove a small amount of the affected tissue for examination
- fine-needle biopsy to remove a small sample of tissue from salivary glands
- imaging tests, such as an MRI or CT scan to assess the size and location of the tumor
- lung function tests in suspected cases of tracheal adenoid cystic carcinoma
- direct laryngoscopy to examine the larynx
- barium X-ray to examine the esophagus
- mammogram to examine the breasts
- cervical smear test in suspected cases of cervical adenoid cystic carcinoma
Your doctor can explain which tests they order in more detail.
Around 4 in 1 million people annually receive an adenoid cystic carcinoma diagnosis.
Adenoid cystic carcinoma accounts for around 1% of cancerous tumors of the head and neck. It accounts for around 10% of all salivary gland tumors.
Adenoid cystic carcinoma in the breast is extremely rare. It accounts for less than 0.1% of all breast cancers.
Adenoid cystic carcinoma typically grows slowly and spreads less frequently than other carcinomas.
However, one possible complication of adenoid cystic carcinomas is recurrence. Following surgical removal, there is a high chance that the tumor will return.
Risk factors for recurrence or distant metastasis include a tumor larger than 3 centimeters and the involvement of regional lymph nodes.
Contact your doctor if you have concerns about the complications of adenoid cystic carcinoma.
Researchers do not know the cause of adenoid cystic carcinoma. As such, it may not be possible to prevent the condition.
Contact your doctor as soon as you have concerns about adenoid cystic carcinoma to help prevent the tumor from growing or spreading. Your doctor can perform tests and advise on recommended treatments to reduce this risk.
Adenoid cystic carcinoma is a rare type of adenocarcinoma that typically begins in the skin. It is usually slow to grow and may not cause any symptoms.
Adenoid cystic carcinoma most frequently affects the salivary glands. Symptoms include facial numbness and weakness, swallowing difficulties, and a painless lump in the face, neck, or mouth.
Contact your doctor as soon as you experience symptoms of adenoid cystic carcinoma. They can carry out tests to reach an accurate diagnosis and recommend the best treatments for you.