Doctors find new organ in throat 1.5 inches in length

Henrietta Strickland
October 22, 2020

Scientists in the Netherlands have discovered a potential new organ in the human throat that they stumbled upon while carrying out research on prostate cancer, Livescience reported.

A team of scientists at the Netherlands Cancer Institute discovered a possible new organ-a pair of salivary glands-tucked away where the nasal cavity meets the throat, reports Katherine Wu for the New York Times.

The medical researchers first came across the body part, which they propose naming tubarial glands, during a scan created to look for tumorous growths.

The findings were published October 16 in the journal Radiotherapy and Oncology.

The glands were discovered by surprise when Wouter Vogel, radiation oncologist, and Matthijs Valstar, oral and maxillofacial surgeon, were testing a new scan called PSMA PET-CT, per a news release.

To do so, doctors inject a radioactive tracer into a patient and trace its path.

The new glands have been catchily named the tubarial saliva glands.

"Beyond those, perhaps a thousand microscopic salivary glands are scattered throughout the mucosal tissue of the throat and 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 researchers found an organ 1.5 inches in length on average, according to the journal Radiotherapy and Oncology. "So, imagine our surprise when we found these". Researchers noticed these unfamiliar structures while looking through the computerized tomography scans of 100 patients diagnosed with prostate or urethral gland cancer.

However, they've been radiating this area for ages before the discovery of the glands, potentially leading some patients to experience side-effects.

"Luckily, these researchers were tuned into the data, and were anatomically savvy enough to note the unusual brightness in a region that was not thought to contain any salivary glands", Ms Reidenberg said.

The study reported that doctors using radiotherapy for treatment of cancers in the head and neck try to avoid the main salivary glands since damaging them could make eating, speaking or swallowing hard for patients.

Vogel says radiation would cause the same side effects in the tubarial salivary glands.

"Radiation therapy can damage the salivary glands, which may lead to complications", said senior author Dr. Wouter Vogel, a radiation therapist in the Department of Nuclear Medicine and the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Netherlands Cancer Institute.

The findings may have implications for cancer patients, study authors said, and suggested that radiation should avoid the glands for better patient outcomes and quality of life.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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