Salivary gland tumors are rare and account for 0.5% of all malignancies in children and adolescents. After rhabdomyosarcoma, they are the most common tumor in the head and neck.   Salivary gland tumors may occur after radiation therapy and chemotherapy are given for treatment of primary leukemia or solid tumors.   
Overall 5-year survival in the pediatric age group is approximately 95%.  A review of the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database identified 284 patients younger than 20 years with tumors of the parotid gland. [Level of evidence: 3iA] Overall survival was 96% at 5 years, 95% at 10 years, and 83% at 20 years. Adolescents had higher mortality rates (7.1%) than did children younger than 15 years (1.6%; P = .23).
Most salivary gland neoplasms arise in the parotid gland.        About 15% of these tumors arise in the submandibular glands or in the minor salivary glands under the tongue and jaw.  These tumors are most frequently benign but may be malignant, especially in young children. 
The most common malignant salivary gland tumor in children is mucoepidermoid carcinoma, followed by acinic cell carcinoma and adenoid cystic carcinoma; less common malignancies include rhabdomyosarcoma, adenocarcinoma, and undifferentiated carcinoma.       Mucoepidermoid carcinoma is usually low or intermediate grade, although high-grade tumors do occur. In one study, 12 of 12 tumors were positive for MECT1-MAML2 fusion transcripts. This reflects the common chromosome translocation t(11;19)(q21;p13) that is seen in adults with salivary gland tumors.  Mucoepidermoid carcinoma is the most common type of treatment-related salivary gland tumor, and with standard therapy, the 5-year survival is about 95%.    
Radical surgical removal is the treatment of choice for salivary gland tumors whenever possible, with additional use of radiation therapy for high-grade tumors or tumors that have invasive characteristics such as lymph node metastasis, lymphovascular invasion, or perineural extension.   ; [Level of evidence: 3iiiA] One retrospective study compared proton therapy with conventional radiation therapy and found that proton therapy had a favorable acute toxicity and dosimetric profile.  Also, in a retrospective study, brachytherapy with iodine I 125 seeds was used to treat 24 children with mucoepidermoid carcinoma who had high-risk factors. Seeds were implanted within 4 weeks of surgical resection. With a median follow-up of 7.2 years, the disease-free and overall survival rates were 100%; no severe radiation-associated complications were reported. [Level of evidence: 3iiDi]
There are inadequate data regarding the efficacy of adjuvant chemotherapy in children.
(Refer to the PDQ summary on Salivary Gland Cancer Treatment [Adult] for more information.)
Information about National Cancer Institute (NCI)–supported clinical trials can be found on the NCI website. For information about clinical trials sponsored by other organizations, refer to the ClinicalTrials.gov website.
The following is an example of a national and/or institutional clinical trial that is currently being conducted:
Tumor tissue from progressive or recurrent disease must be available for molecular characterization. Patients with tumors that have molecular variants addressed by treatment arms included in the trial will be offered treatment on Pediatric MATCH. Additional information can be obtained on the ClinicalTrials.gov website for APEC1621 (NCT03155620).
Sialoblastoma is a usually benign tumor presenting in the neonatal period and rarely metastasizes.  Chemotherapy regimens with carboplatin, epirubicin, vincristine, etoposide, dactinomycin, doxorubicin, and ifosfamide have produced responses in two children with sialoblastoma. ; [Level of evidence: 3iiiDiv]
Cancer in children and adolescents is rare, although the overall incidence of childhood cancer has been slowly increasing since 1975.  Referral to medical centers with multidisciplinary teams of cancer specialists experienced in treating cancers that occur in childhood and adolescence should be considered for children and adolescents with cancer. This multidisciplinary team approach incorporates the skills of the following health care professionals and others to ensure that children receive treatment, supportive care, and rehabilitation that will achieve optimal survival and quality of life:
(Refer to the PDQ Supportive and Palliative Care summaries for specific information about supportive care for children and adolescents with cancer.)
Guidelines for pediatric cancer centers and their role in the treatment of pediatric patients with cancer have been outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  At these pediatric cancer centers, clinical trials are available for most types of cancer that occur in children and adolescents, and the opportunity to participate in these trials is offered to most patients and their families. Clinical trials for children and adolescents diagnosed with cancer are generally designed to compare potentially better therapy with therapy that is currently accepted as standard. Most of the progress made in identifying curative therapy for childhood cancers has been achieved through clinical trials. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI website.
Dramatic improvements in survival have been achieved for children and adolescents with cancer. Between 1975 and 2010, childhood cancer mortality decreased by more than 50%.  Childhood and adolescent cancer survivors require close monitoring because cancer therapy side effects may persist or develop months or years after treatment. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer for specific information about the incidence, type, and monitoring of late effects in childhood and adolescent cancer survivors.)
Childhood cancer is a rare disease, with about 15,000 cases diagnosed annually in the United States in individuals younger than 20 years.  The U.S. Rare Diseases Act of 2002 defines a rare disease as one that affects populations smaller than 200,000 persons and, by definition, all pediatric cancers are considered rare. The designation of a pediatric rare tumor is not uniform among international groups, as follows:
These rare cancers are extremely challenging to study because of the low incidence of patients with any individual diagnosis, the predominance of rare cancers in the adolescent population, and the lack of clinical trials for adolescents with rare cancers.
Information about these tumors may also be found in sources relevant to adults with cancer such as the PDQ summary on Salivary Gland Cancer Treatment (Adult).
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This summary is written and maintained by the PDQ Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board, which is editorially independent of NCI. The summary reflects an independent review of the literature and does not represent a policy statement of NCI or NIH. More information about summary policies and the role of the PDQ Editorial Boards in maintaining the PDQ summaries can be found on the About This PDQ Summary and PDQ® - NCI's Comprehensive Cancer Database pages.
This PDQ cancer information summary for health professionals provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information about the treatment of childhood salivary gland tumors. It is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians who care for cancer patients. It does not provide formal guidelines or recommendations for making health care decisions.
This summary is reviewed regularly and updated as necessary by the PDQ Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board, which is editorially independent of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The summary reflects an independent review of the literature and does not represent a policy statement of NCI or the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
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PDQ® Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board. PDQ Childhood Salivary Gland Tumors Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated <MM/DD/YYYY>. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/head-and-neck/hp/child/salivary-gland-treatment-pdq. Accessed <MM/DD/YYYY>.
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Date first published: 2018-01-08 Date last modified: 2018-01-08
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