Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma

Adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC cancer) is a rare cancer that most commonly affects the salivary glands. The throat, mouth, lacrimal glands (tear glands) and other areas of the body, such as the breasts or prostate gland, can also be affected. Wherever it’s located, ACC cancer can spread along nerves and can be difficult to get rid of entirely.

For patients with ACC cancer in the skull base—the bones and structures that form the bottom of the head and the area just behind the eyes and nose—surgical tumor removal can be especially difficult. But at Tampa General Hospital’s Neuroscience Institute and Ear, Nose and Throat Institute, our multidisciplinary team of surgeons expertly treat ACC cancer and other types of skull base tumors with state-of-the-art technology. In fact, TGH has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report in the top 10% of hospitals in the nation for Neurology & Neurosurgery in 2023-24.

Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma Causes

There are no known causes of adenoid cystic carcinoma. However, as with many other types of cancer, genetic mutations are believed to be the underlying basis of malignant tumor development.

Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma Symptoms

Symptoms of ACC cancer will vary depending on the location of the malignancy. When adenoid cystic carcinoma affects the salivary glands or other structures in the skull base, symptoms can include:

  • Facial Pain
  • Facial drooping
  • Numbness in the lips or other areas of the face
  • Vision changes
  • Eye bulging
  • Pain and Swelling

Diagnosing Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma

Diagnosing ACC cancer typically begins with a detailed medical history, a physical examination, and lab tests. A variety of other tests will likely be performed to confirm the presence of adenoid cystic carcinoma and may include:

  • Biopsies – removal of a small tissue sample of the suspected tumor for evaluation by a pathologist
  • CT scan – a series of computerized X-rays that create a film of cross-sectional images of bones, tissues and organs
  • MRI – images generated with a powerful magnet and radio waves that create visual cross sections of bones, tissues and organs
  • PET scan – a test that uses an injectable radiotracer to create 3D images of organs

Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma Treatment

Treating adenoid cystic carcinoma usually involves skull base surgery to remove tumors and some surrounding tissue, to ensure that the cancer has not spread beyond the tumor itself. Sometimes a portion of a facial nerve may need to be removed during surgery, which can lead to facial drooping. Reconstructive surgery to address the dropping may be an option for some patients.

In cases where cancer is thought to have spread but hasn’t been seen, or a tumor cannot be entirely removed without damaging other organs, radiation therapy may be recommended.

Become a Patient

At Tampa General Hospital, our skull base surgery team comprises neurosurgeons, ENT surgeons, oncologists and many other specialists who are experts in their field. They perform both endoscopic and traditional approaches to skull base surgery, recommending the options that best suit our patients’ needs. Our affiliation with the University of South Florida and our multidisciplinary approach to care has garnered us recognition as a Multidisciplinary Team of Distinction by the North American Skull Base Society.

To learn more about adenoid cystic carcinoma and schedule an appointment, call (800) 822-3627. We also give second opinions on previous diagnoses.

Take the Next Step

Learn more about Tampa General Hospital’s Skull Base Surgery Center and find out if our approach to care is right for you.