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What are the symptoms?

ACC generally develops slowly, sometimes over several years, and may not cause symptoms. Most often it is diagnosed as a single tumour but may have spread to nearby lymph nodes by the time it is diagnosed in a small number of cases. Rarely, ACC can spread along nerves or metastasise to other parts of the body (usually the lungs, liver or bone) and cause problems. It can also be unpredictable, growing slowly for a period of time and then suddenly growing quickly. ACC may behave differently in different people.

If you do have symptoms it will depend on where in the body the tumour is located and its size. Symptoms may include:

  • Salivary gland (produces saliva) – painless lump in the mouth, face or neck; numbness in the face; weakness in facial muscles (drooping in the face); problems swallowing or opening mouth
  • Lacrimal gland (produces tears) – bulging eye; changes in vision
  • Larynx (voice box) and trachea (windpipe) – hoarseness; changes in speech; difficulty breathing
  • Skin – pain; increased sensitivity; pus and/or blood discharge
  • Breast – slow growing lump that may be tender or cause pain.

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed February 2021 by the following expert content reviewers: A/Prof Dion Forstner, Radiation Oncologist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, NSW; Nick Kelly, Consumer; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA.