Basal cell adenoma of the salivary glands

by Jason Wasserman MD PhD FRCPC
November 9, 2022

What is basal cell adenoma of the salivary glands?

Basal cell adenoma (BCA) is a non-cancerous type of salivary gland tumour. The most common location for this tumour is the parotid gland although it can be found in any of the major or minor salivary glands located throughout the head and neck.

Is basal cell adenoma a type of cancer?

No. BCA is a benign (non-cancerous) type of salivary gland tumour.

What causes basal cell adenoma?

Most BCAs are sporadic which means the tumour develops without any known genetic or environmental risk factors. However, the risk of developing this tumour is higher in people with familial/multiple cylindromatosis syndrome.

What are the symptoms of basal cell adenoma?

Most BCAs present as a small painless lump over one of the salivary glands.

How is the diagnosis of basal cell adenoma made?

The diagnosis of BCA can be made after a small sample of the tumour is removed in either a core needle biopsy or fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB). The diagnosis can also be made after the entire is removed in an excision or resection. The tissue removed is then sent to a pathologist for examination under the microscope.

What does a basal cell adenoma look like under a microscope?

When examined under a microscope, most BCAs look dark blue because the tumour is made up predominantly of basal cells that have a large nucleus (the part of the cell that holds the genetic material) relative to the overall size of the cell. A bright pink ‘basement-membrane type’ material is often seen in between groups of tumour cells. The tumour may be described as well-circumscribed which means there is a clear border between the tumour and the surrounding normal salivary gland tissue.

Basal cell adenoma
Basal cell adenoma. The tumour is made up predominantly of dark blue basal cells.
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