Parotid gland adenoma

Salivary glands make saliva – the lubricating fluid found in the mouth and throat. Saliva contains enzymes that begin the process of digesting food. It also contains antibodies and other substances that help prevent infections of the mouth and throat. The 2 main types of salivary glands are the major salivary glands and minor salivary glands.

There are 3 sets of major salivary glands on each side of the face:













  • The parotid glands, the largest salivary glands, are just in front of the ears. About 7 out of 10 salivary gland tumors start here. Most of these tumors are benign (not cancer), but the parotid glands still are where most malignant (cancerous) salivary gland tumors start.

  • The submandibular glands are smaller and are below the jaw. They secrete saliva under the tongue. About 1 or 2 out of 10 tumors start in these glands, and about half of these tumors are cancer.

  • The sublingual glands, which are the smallest, are under the floor of the mouth and below either side of the tongue. Tumors starting in these glands are rare.

Most salivary gland tumors are benign – that is, they are not cancer and will not spread to other parts of the body. These tumors are almost never life threatening. Benign tumors are almost always cured by surgery. Very rarely, they may become cancer if left untreated for a long time or if they are not completely removed by non oncology surgeon.

Surgery is often the main treatment for salivary gland cancers. 

Most salivary gland tumors occur in the parotid gland. Surgery here is complicated by the fact that the facial nerve, which controls movement on the same side of the face, passes through the gland. For these operations, an incision (cut) is made in the skin in front of the ear and may extend down to the neck. Most parotid gland cancers start in the outside part of the gland, called the superficial lobe. These can be treated by removing only this lobe, which is called a superficial parotidectomy. This usually leaves the facial nerve intact and does not affect facial movement.

If cancer has spread into deeper tissues, the surgeon will remove the entire gland. This operation is called a total parotidectomy. If the cancer has grown into the facial nerve, it will have to be removed as well. If the cancer has grown into other tissues near parotid gland, these tissues might also need to be removed.

If facial nerve is damaged during surgery, patient might lose control of his facial muscles on the side where the surgery was done. That side of face may droop. If the injury to the facial nerve is related to retraction (pulling) of the nerve during surgery and/or swelling from the operation, the damage might just be temporary.