Journal of Indian Academy of Oral Medicine and Radiology

: 2021  |  Volume : 33  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 340--343

Adenoid cystic carcinoma of submandibular salivary gland: A case report with extensive management

P Venkatalakshmi Aparna1, J Venkatesh2, S Leena Sankari3, N Narmatha4,  
1 Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, Ragas Dental College and Hospital, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, Rajah Muthiah Dental College and Hospital, Annamalai University, Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, India
3 Department of Oral Pathology and Microbiology, Sree Balaji Dental College and Hospital, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
4 Department of Oral Medicine and Maxillofacial Radiology, Tagore Dental College and Hospital, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. N Narmatha
Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, Tagore Dental College and Hospital, Chennai, Tamil Nadu


Adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC) is a relatively rare epithelial malignant tumor of the major and minor salivary glands with deceptive benign histologic appearance characterized by indolent, locally invasive growth with a high propensity for local recurrence and distant metastasis. Typical ACC has a cribriform pattern, presenting a very aggressive course among the histologic variants. According to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP), ACC was considered the fifth most common malignant epithelial tumor of the salivary gland. ACC is more common in the minor salivary gland, the palate being the most common site, submandibular salivary gland and least followed by sublingual and parotid glands. ACC accounts for about 1% of all malignant tumors of the oral and maxillofacial regions. Thus, considering its rarity, we would like to discuss a case report of ACC of the submandibular salivary gland in a 52-year-old female patient with a typical histological pattern, which would epitomize all cases of ACC along with extensive management.

How to cite this article:
Aparna P V, Venkatesh J, Sankari S L, Narmatha N. Adenoid cystic carcinoma of submandibular salivary gland: A case report with extensive management.J Indian Acad Oral Med Radiol 2021;33:340-343

How to cite this URL:
Aparna P V, Venkatesh J, Sankari S L, Narmatha N. Adenoid cystic carcinoma of submandibular salivary gland: A case report with extensive management. J Indian Acad Oral Med Radiol [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Jan 26 ];33:340-343
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According to the WHO histological classification of tumors of salivary glands, adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC) is under malignant epithelial tumors.[1] ACC was first described by Theodor Billroth in 1856. Initially, it was termed cylindromas based on the histological features, and it has been changed as adenoid cystic carcinoma by Kaiser.[2] It has been entrenched that cribriform pattern is the most common among histologic variants of ACC.[3] The exact etiology of ACC has not been got yet in the literature. Recurrent chromosomal rearrangements characterized adenoid cystic carcinoma.

MYB overexpression was clear in the ACC pathogenesis. Though not clear in all cases, overexpression of transcription factors from the family of MYB genes plays a vital role in the pathogenesis of ACC.[4],[5],[6] Thus, we are presenting a case report of adenoid cystic carcinoma along with management.

Patient information

A 52-year-old female patient visited the department of oral medicine and radiology with the chief complaint of painless swelling in the lower front tooth region for the past 2 months. History of presenting illness revealed swelling increased slowly to reach the present size and shape Timeline of history presented in [Figure 1]. Medical history was noncontributory. Personal history revealed no adverse oral habits.{Figure 1}

Clinical description

The patient's general examination revealed no abnormality. Vital signs were normal, moderately built, and nourished. Extra-oral examination revealed a double chin appearance with no other signs of systemic involvement. Intraoral examination showed a moderate amount of calculus and stains. Hard tissue examination showed missing 31, 41. Upon soft tissue examination, growth was evident at the mandibular alveolar mucosa concerning the lingual aspect of edentulous 31, 32, and from dentate 34 to 43 region [Figure 2]. The growth was well-circumscribed in nature with no secondary changes, measuring 5 × 3 cm, extending mesio distally from the distal aspect of 34 to the distal aspect of 43. On palpation, the growth was non-tender, hard in consistency, fixed to the underlying structures. Bucco lingual obliteration was evident in the anterior mandibular region. On lymph nodes examination, a single right submandibular lymph node measuring approximately 1 × 1 cm was present. The lymph node was non-tender, hard in consistency, and fixed to the underlying structure.{Figure 2}

Diagnostic assessment

Occlusal radiograph revealed buccolingual resorption in relation to edentulous space of 32, 42 with floating of 42, 43, 32 with only apical bone remaining [Figure 3]. Ortho pantomography revealed diffuse radiolucency involving the symphysial region extending from 34 to 44 with an intact inferior border of the mandible. Loss of lamina dura with resorption in the apical one-third roots of 42 and 43 [Figure 4]. Axial CT revealed a homogeneous hypodense cystic lesion with buccal cortical expansion and perforation extending from 33 to 43 [Figure 5]. The reconstructive image showed the perforation of the buccal cortex in the anterior mandibular region [Figure 6]. Based on the history, clinical presentation, and radiographic features, the differential considerations included major or minor salivary gland malignancy.{Figure 3}{Figure 4}{Figure 5}{Figure 6}

Therapeutic intervention

The patient was managed with anterior mandibular segmental resection along with left submandibular and sublingual gland excision and reconstructed with stainless steel reconstruction plates and intermaxillary fixation for occlusal stability [Figure 7]. The excised specimen was sent for histopathological examination. Histopathology revealed a cribriform architectural growth pattern with the presence of basaloid and hyperchromatic neoplastic cells, suggestive of adenoid cystic carcinoma [Figure 8].{Figure 7}{Figure 8}

Follow-up and outcome

The patient is under follow-up for 6 months, and there is no recurrence reported to date, and the prognosis has been good.


ACC accounts for about 1% of all malignant tumors of the oral and maxillofacial regions and 10%–15% of malignant tumors of salivary glands.[7] More common in the fifth and sixth decades of life and among females.[8] The most common site is minor salivary glands, submandibular, and sublingual salivary glands.[3] Our case was reported in the fifth-decade female, among the most common site, submandibular salivary glands. Apart from genetic background, ACC is thought to arise from the structures derived from the foregut (i.e.) parotid, submandibular and sublingual glands, and mucus glands throughout the upper respiratory tract.[9] These tumors are difficult to diagnose at the early stage because of their indolent growth, rendering it to be asymptomatic in most cases.[10] Our case was diagnosed at the early stage because of the interference in speech and difficulty in mastication co-existing with edentulous 31, 41. Considering the three histologic variants of ACC – tubular, cribriform, solid type – “cribriform pattern” is the most common type[7] and gives the entire structure a typical “swiss-cheese” appearance. It is moderately differentiated and has a good prognosis compared to the solid variant, which is poorly differentiated. ACC is characterized by a propensity of perineural invasion, a high frequency of local and distant recurrence, and a poor long-term prognosis.[11] Our case presented with the most common type of cribriform histologic pattern and rendered a good prognosis. Prognosis is also attributed to the site; the more favorable outcome is with major salivary gland ACC because of its early recognition. There was no history of perineural invasion on clinical examination. Management includes surgical excision, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. Our case underwent wide surgical excision along with minor salivary glands removal to prevent a recurrence. The underlying principles in all ACC therapy are that tumor cells extend well beyond the clinical or radiographic margins. Therefore, it requires excision with the widest margins possible.

Strength and limitations

Our case was diagnosed at the early stage as these tumors are difficult to diagnose at the early stage, presented with the most common type of cribriform histologic pattern and rendered a good prognosis. Extensive diagnostic assessment such as MRI was not performed and considered as one limitations in our study.


Adenoid cystic carcinoma has an indolent nature and a good survival rate in case of early recognition with no evidence of distant metastasis. Complete follow-up is needed to avoid recurrences in the future. Thus, considering its rarity, dentists should be cognizant of the prevalence of adenoid cystic carcinoma and its role in distant metastasis.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient (s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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