Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma: Symptom, Treatment


Adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC), also called as malignant cylindroma or adenocyst, is an uncommon disorder with an estimated incidence of about 5 per million people per year, which typically affects glandular tissues of the head and neck, but also occurs in other parts of human body, such as breast and uterus.

It is a rare form of adenocarcinoma.

ACC is usually marked by a slow and gradual growth pattern. However, as time passes, it can be unpredictable, progressive and relentless.


ACC is a distinctive disease of unknown etiology affecting more women than men. It can occur in individuals at any age.

On the one hand, experts believe that it is a result of the combination of genetic as well as environmental contributions.

On the other hand, studies indicate that there are chromosomal abnormalities and genetic deletions occurring in samples of ACC, which means the damage or changes to the DNA of specific cells can be the potential cause of ACC.


Symptoms of ACC vary depending on the tumor’s severity and location.

Common signs in early stage include:

  • Lumps under the lining of the mouth or facial skin;
  • Numbness in the face or mouth;
  • Difficulty swallowing;
  • Hoarseness.

In advanced cases, patients may experience paralysis of the facial nerves and pain in the face.

Apart from that, if the tumors occur in the lacrimal gland, patients may suffer from proptosis and decreased visual acuity; if in the tracheobronchial tree patients may have some respiratory symptoms; if in the larynx, it may result in difficulty in speech.


Generally, the first step for precise diagnosis is biopsy. Doctors will use a fine needle to take a sample of the tumor, then analyzing it to diagnose.

Then in order to find out the size and location of the tumor, doctors may use one of the following tests:

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): to make detailed images with powerful magnets and radio waves.
  • CT scan (computerized tomography): to show more information with several X-rays taken from different angles.
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography): to make 3-dimensional color images with radiation.


Surgically removing tumors followed by a radiation are the “gold standard” and also the most common protocol for treating ACC tumor, which can stop the cancer and help patients to avoid recurrence for a lifetime.

Apart from these standard therapy options, there still are some investigational therapy options. Some clinical trials are trying to find out other treatments to control metastatic or locally recurrent ACC by examining the effects of relatively new chemotherapeutic drugs alone, or in combination with other drugs.

After treatment, regular checkups to look for signs of new tumors is also pretty necessary.

Keywords: adenoid cystic carcinoma; malignant cylindroma; adenocyst.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.