Researchers from the Netherlands Cancer Institute have discovered a new pair of salivary glands hidden between the nasal cavity and throat. The team proposed the name “tubarial glands” as they were found over the torus tubarius, the structure that supports the entrance of the auditory tube. The glands are 3.9 cms in length, and probably lubricate the upper throat behind the nose and the mouth.
Until now, there were three known large salivary glands in humans: one under the tongue, one under the jaw and one at the back of the jaw, behind the cheek. The discovery could be important for cancer treatment. Doctors using radiation on the head and neck to treat cancer try to avoid irradiating the salivary glands, but because no one knew about these glands, no one avoided radiation in that region. The more radiation patients received in the area of the unknown glands, the more side effects they reported. The new discovery could thus translate to fewer side effects for cancer patients.