Symptoms of Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma

Executive Summary:

The symptoms of Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma (ACC) depend upon the location and nature of tumor, whether mild or aggressive. The primary signs and symptoms of Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma depend upon the condition of the cancer growth. The early tumors or lesions present in the salivary glands may be painless. Similar lumps can also be seen in the salivary glands present in the throat, under the mucosal lining of the mouth and sinuses. The most important signs and symptoms of ACC include the presence of mass or lump on the palate, abnormal lining on the mouth, trouble in swallowing food, hoarseness, numbness in the upper jaw, tongue, face or palate, bump underneath the jaw, soft pain, paralysis of facial nerves. The signs and symptoms vary depending upon the site of origin of tumor. The advanced stage of ACC causes pain, numbness, or nerve paralysis.

Signs and symptoms of Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma

Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma (ACC) is a rare malignant form of adenocarcinoma. This tumour can develop in different body parts, mainly in the head and neck region, particularly in the salivary glands. Other body parts where Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma can occur are the breasts, uterus, vulva, lungs, brain, lacrimal gland of the eye, sweat glands, trachea and the Bartholin gland.

The Symptoms of Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma depend on the location and the nature of the tumor (mild/aggressive) ​1​. Due to these factors, some people with the disease experience signs and symptoms, whereas some others don’t experience any of them. Sometimes, similar symptoms may indicate a different medical condition and no cancerous growth like Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. 

The initial signs and symptoms of Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma depend upon the situation of the cancer growth . The early tumors or lesions present in the salivary glands may seem painless. They usually grow slowly underneath the traditional lining of either the mouth or the face skin.

Prominent Signs and Symptoms of Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma 

  • Presence of a mass, lump or growth on the palate (roof) of the mouth, beneath the tongue or in the base of the mouth.
  • An unusual, abnormal area on the mouth lining, causing discomfort.
  • Trouble swallowing food materials.
  • Voice becoming hoarse.
  • A numb or paralyzed feeling in the upper jaw, tongue, face, or the palate or roof of the mouth.
  • A nodule or bump underneath the jaw or in front of the ear. 
  • Dull (soft) pain.
  • Any facial nerve can paralyze or immobile.

Signs and Symptoms of Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma as per tumor’s site of origin

  • If the tumor develops in the salivary glands, the symptoms include the presence of pain-free, slow-growing lumps or masses in the mouth region or face.
  • The tumor originated in the Lacrimal glands can cause bulging of the eyes and changes in insight/vision.
  • Various respiratory symptoms like dyspnea or shortness of breath can happen if it developed in the Tracheobronchial tree.
  •  If it originates in the Larynx, it can cause variations in the utterance of speech.
  • Adenoid cystic carcinoma in the advanced stage can causes symptoms like pain, numbness, or nerve paralysis since they can invade and spread along the nerves.

In case you experience any of the signs or symptoms mentioned above, please consult a doctor. The doctor will ask you how long and how often you have been experiencing these signs or symptoms as part of the diagnosis. You may also ask any queries or doubts regarding these signs. All these will help understand the disease condition in a better, informed manner.

Symptoms and signs play a vital role in detecting any disease. Suppose a person is diagnosed with cancer, managing and relieving symptoms forms an essential part of cancer treatment and care. This is called supportive care or palliative care. It starts soon after disease diagnosis and is continued throughout and after the treatment. Patients are encouraged to communicate with their doctor or health care team about any signs or symptoms including any new symptoms or a change in the existing symptoms as per their experience.


  1. 1.
    Cantù G. Adenoid cystic carcinoma. An indolent but aggressive tumour. Part A: from aetiopathogenesis to diagnosis. Acta Otorhinolaryngol Ital. Published online June 2021:206-214. doi:10.14639/0392-100x-n1379