Mucoepidermoid Carcinoma

What is Mucoepidermoid Carcinoma?

Mucoepidermoid Carcinoma has a major impact on society all over the world. The number of individuals diagnosed with cancer is increasing. In 2016, around 1,685,210 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the USA and 595,690 will die due to the disease.

Some of the most common cancers in 2016 are breast cancer, prostate cancer, melanoma of the skin, thyroid cancer, leukemia, kidney and renal pelvis cancer, bladder cancer and pancreatic cancer. (1)

The number of cancer mortality is increasing because they detected the condition late and sometimes they are misdiagnosed. This is due to lack of information about other types of cancer which are rare but can affect many people. Just like the “mucoepidermoid carcinoma (MEC)”.

An ordinary individual might be suffering from this disease but he is not aware he already has it. This post is about Mucoepidermoid Carcinoma, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatments, and survival rate.

)Mucoepidermoid Carcinoma Salivary Grand

The schematic view of the salivary glands

Mucoepidermoid carcinoma is the most common type of salivary gland cancer in adults. It can also occur in other organs such as the thyroid, bronchi and lacrimal sac. MEC represents a specific type of tumor. They contain 3 cellular elements in different proportions: mucus-secreting cells, intermediate cells, and squamous cells.

The disease was first mentioned by Masson and Berger in 1924. This type of cancer comprises the 35% of all the malignancies of the major and minor salivary glands. It is common to women than men and it normally occurs in the 5th decade of life. Mucoepidermoid carcinoma is also the most common type of salivary gland malignancy in children. (3,4)

Signs & Symptoms 


The majority of the people with mucoepidermoid carcinoma of the lung have no symptoms. The early indications of the disease are similar to the symptoms present in common benign cases, which makes it hard to diagnose at an early stage. The symptoms shown are due to irritation or obstruction of the airways and trachea. (5)

Some of the common symptoms of this disease include:

  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Hemoptysis: Blood in cough is the most common sign
  • In condition such as metastasis, pain at metastatic sites, like the bone
  • Labored breathing
  • Pneumonia, due to blockade of the airways
  • Pain in the chest
  • Weight loss
  • Wheezing

Parotid Gland

At first, a mass will appear but you will not feel anything as it grows. As the cancer progresses some of the symptoms you might observe are as follows: (6)

  • Bleeding
  • Difficulty opening the mouth
  • Ear pain, or pain in the neck or mouth
  • Facial paralysis, numbness, a loss of motor function or paresthesia,
  • Pain or trouble with swallowing
  • Tenderness

Salivary Gland

Some of the symptoms of salivary gland mucoepidermoid carcinoma are as follows: (7)

  • A swelling or lump on or near your jaw or in your mouth or neck
  • Continuous pain in the area of a salivary gland
  • Having difficulties opening your mouth widely
  • Muscle weakness on one side of your face
  • Numbness in specific part of your face
  • Swallowing problem


Mucoepidermoid carcinoma has not been researched extensively, and its causes remain a mystery. This type of cancer can be caused by genetic changes that turn healthy cells into cancer cells. Their growth is uncontrollable that lead to the formation of tumors.

In the case of MEC, one of these cell-controlling genes has multiplied. The correct destruction and production of cells no longer occurs.

The mutation of these genes can be due to your exposure on certain cancer-causing chemicals, or radiation, or carcinogens. (8)


Mucoepidermoid carcinoma is graded based on how abnormal the cancers look when subjected to a microscope. By grading you will have an idea how fast it will grow and spread: (9)

Mucoepidermoid Carcinoma Picture 2

Low Grade mucoepidermoid carcinoma

  • Grade 1 also referred to as low grade or well differentiated cancers may appear like a normal salivary gland cells. They grow slowly and have a better prognosis.

Intermediate Grade mucoepidermoid carcinoma

  • Grade 2 or the intermediate grade or moderately differentiated may look like grade 1 and grade 3 cancers.

Mucoepidermoid Carcinoma Picture 3

High Grade mucoepidermoid carcinoma

  • Grade 3 cancer or the high grade or poorly differentiated is much different as compared to normal cells and usually grow and spread fast. The outlook for these cancers is most of the time not good as compared to lower grade cancers.


A person suspected to have mucoepidermoid carcinoma symptoms should undergo examinations and tests to determine his real condition. Once diagnosed to have cancer further tests will be conducted to assess the severity or coverage of the disease. Some of the tests the patients need to undergo are as follows: (10)

Medical history and physical examination

  • Your doctor will ask about the symptoms you are having and when they first appeared.
  • You will be asked about risk factors and your general health.
  • Examines your mouth and the areas on the side of your face, around your jaw and ears and checks for enlarged lymph nodes.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests are ordered if they see abnormalities during the physical examination. You may be referred to an ENT doctor to check on your eyes, nose and throat.

  • This test is carried out to check on the suspicious area
  • The coverage of the disease
  • Check if you are responding to treatment


  • This is done to when there is a lump or swelling near your jaw.
  • This will also determine the spread of the cancer to your lungs.

Computed Tomography or CT Scan

  • Produce detailed images of the body.
  • It can show the shape, position and size of the tumor.
  • It helps locate any enlarged lymph nodes that might contain cancer.

MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan

  • Provides a very detailed imaging of the body.
  • Determines the exact position and extent of a tumor.
  • Determines if the tumor is benign or malignant.


If the above tests confirm that you have a tumor, biopsy is done before making the actual diagnosis. This is done either by incision or thru surgery.


After you are diagnosed with cancer, a team of cancer care professionals will discuss your treatment options with you. Your treatment team may include – (11)

  • an otolaryngologist a surgeon who specializes on treating the head and neck diseases.
  • a radiologist oncologist a doctor who uses radiation therapy to treat cancer
  • a medical oncologist a doctor who uses medicines like chemotherapy to treat cancer.
  • Other specialists such as physician assistants, nurses, speech therapists, social workers, nutrition specialists, occupational therapists, and other health professionals.

Treatment of mucoepidermoid carcinoma includes:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Sometimes more than one of type of treatment is used.

Factors that Affects the Treatment

  • Type
  • Grade
  • Stage of cancer
  • Patients overall health
  • The impact of the treatment on functions such as swallowing, chewing and speech
  • Patients personal preferences
  • The chances of curing the disease

Survival Rates

Doctors discuss the survival rates to inform the patient’s prognosis. Most of the cancer patients want to know the survival rate for people with similar conditions, although there are some that are not comfortable knowing these numbers.

The survival rate for this case is 5-year. It means that patients will live at least 5 years after their condition is diagnosed. But there are some who lives longer than 5 years and most of them are cured. (12)

The above facts and data are taken from reliable sources. If you find this post helpful to you, feel free to share it with others particularly those who are suffering from the disease.



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