Adenoid cystic carcinoma is a rare type of cancer that usually develops in the salivary glands, which are the areas of the body where saliva is produced. Although less common, adenoid cystic carcinoma can also grow inside the breasts, eyes, lungs, brain, throat, and paranasal sinuses. Cancers form when a change (mutation) in DNA causes certain cells to grow out of control, sometimes forming a lump or a tumor. Some of these cancerous cells can break off and spread to other parts of the body where they will continue to grow. This process is known as metastasis.
Adenoid cystic carcinoma most commonly occurs in adults between the ages of 40 and 60, although it can appear in all age groups. The most common symptom of adenoid cystic carcinoma is painless swelling on the face, neck, or mouth area. This cancer may also cause facial pain and nerve paralysis, which results in difficulty displaying facial expressions. Depending on the size of the cancer, affected individuals may also experience difficulty with vision or breathing. Diagnosis is usually made with a combination of a physical exam, imaging studies, blood tests, and other laboratory studies. Diagnosis may require a doctor to take a biopsy, or sample, of the tissue to look at under a microscope in order to determine if the cells are growing in an abnormal way.
Treatment for adenoid cystic carcinoma depends on many factors such as how large the cancer is and if it has spread to other areas of the body. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options. Support groups are also available for more resources and information.