New glands found while looking for prostate cancer

Researchers at the Netherlands Cancer Institute have discovered a new set of salivary glands while scanning for prostate cancer cells using a combination of CT scans and PSMA PET-CT.

Reporting in the journal Radiotherapy and Oncology (doi.org/10.1016/j.radonc.2020.09.034) the scientists identified the previously unseen glands behind the nose and throat over a piece of cartilage called the torus tubarius. They have proposed calling the new glands, which are approximately 1.5 inches long, the tubarial salivary glands.

PSMA PET-CT scanning is an effective tool for identifying prostate cancer cells but it also detects salivary gland tissue which is rich in PSMA protein.

The presence of the glands was confirmed by reviewing scans for 100 patients and from dissecting two cadavers.

The findings are significant as radiotherapy can result in damage to salivary gland tissue leading to dry mouth and dysphagia following treatment. Radiographers try to spare the known glands to reduce the problem but until now have been radiating the area of the new glands.

According to the authors they now need to look at how they can try and spare the new glands during radiotherapy and aim to reduce the side effects of treatment.

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