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Submandibular salivary gland transfer

MICH4EL's picture
Posts: 73
Joined: Mar 2013

Does anyone have experience or information about submandibular salivary gland transfer procedure that is done prior to radiation to protect the salivary glands during treatment. The salivary glands are moved to a different location.  Research studies found 83% of patients who received this procedure retained their salivary gland functions after radiation while 100% of those who didn't receive it ended up with dry mouth.

Thanks.  Michael


fishmanpa's picture
Posts: 1217
Joined: Jan 2013

Hi Michael,

I researched it and spoke to my surgeon about it prior to my 2nd surgery. No go for me and it's not a common practice according to him (he said I should regain most of my saliva production within 6 months to a year). I'm afraid desert mouth is in your future unless you find a surgeon that does it as a matter of common practice... BUT... based on my radiation map (my RO showed me the plan of action last week). I'm only getting 26 greys in the area of my submandibular salivary glands on both sides which bodes well for future salivary gland function. That being said, I'm getting a bit of dry mouth. I didn't feel it starting until yesterday. Although some of it may be attributed to meds, I believe this to be the beginning of the end of saliva production for a while as what I'm feeling now is somewhat thickened. I still have my taste buddies though :)~


Skiffin16's picture
Posts: 8286
Joined: Sep 2009

Michael, did those research studies mention anything on time frames...?

While my time on here, not every one lost their saliva, so I guess dry mouth is a matter of interpretation. Definitely not 100% completely lost salivary function permanantly, or even temporary for that matter.

Most have and did lose some if not all salivary function as a result of rads. But many of those like myself, and several others have gotten nearly all (if not all) of their saliva back. A few didn't lose it, and at least one I think said it increased...

For me I have around 90 - 95% back I would say... I only get dry during sleep at night. The rest of the time I think I'm probably 100% or close enough I can't tell.

Studies are usually geared with an objective and agenda (from what I have found)... And one thing you'll hear here often, we are all different..

Personally from my four plus years on here, the odds of losing your saliva long term enough to be significant is very low.

Are you or most going to lose saliva and taste somewehre during rads, and for the next several months if not a tad longer.., more than likely. Will most of all of it come back, usually somewhere in between...yes, many have gotten pretty much all of it back.

For me, most of the saliva probably took 6 - 12 months.., same with taste. But a few things took nearly all of two years to completely get all of my taste back.


longtermsurvivor's picture
Posts: 1845
Joined: Mar 2010

what is considered dry depends on what endpoint is used in the timeline of recovery from rads.  After my rads in 1998, I eventually recovered 100%.  Even got to the point of eating popcorn at the moview without having a drink to go with it.  that took me about four years, so if you'd completed the study on me sooner than that, I suppose I would've been included in the "dry" group.



Billie67's picture
Posts: 843
Joined: Jul 2012

My dr said it's not as widely used as you'd think. 

I am 9 months out from treatment and I also lost my taste and saliva. I'd say my taste is about 90% back and my saliva is a little slower to return but i have seen improvements. I would say I'm at about 45-50% back to normal on that. I'm staying hopeful and positive about it tho. 

Please make sure you do lots of research and talk with Dr's who do this procedure and don't rely on web searches alone. A lot of what we read online is not always 100% trustworthy. Most of us on this site will recommend not to go searching and instead ask here or your doctor directly.

Good luck on your decision and treatment, keep us posted.


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