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The Parotid Glands

The parotid glands are the largest one of three pairs of major salivary glands that produce saliva, which helps break down food through mastication and digestion, keeps the digestive tract moist and promotes oral health.

The parotid glands are responsible for secreting 25% of the saliva carried to the mouth via the Stensen duct. They are located in front of each ear and extend down to the lower parts of the jaw.

Parotid Lump or Salivary Gland Tumors

Parotid lumps or tumors are abnormal growths that form within the parotid glands or tissues. There are several types and characteristics of parotid lumps, the two most common being Warthin’s tumor and pleomorphic adenomas, and both of which are benign, painless and slow-growing.

According to research, around 85% of salivary gland tumors develop in the parotid glands, most of which are benign. On the other hand, while the occurrence is less common, 25% of tumors which are cancerous actually begin in the parotid glands.

Symptoms of Gland Tumors & Parotid Cancer

Both benign and malignant forms of salivary gland tumors are characterized by a lump or swelling on the side of the face near the neck, mouth or jaw. Additional signs to watch out for include:

  • Persistent pain in the salivary gland area (ear, cheek, jaw, neck, mouth)
  • Numbness or muscle weakness on one side or part of the face
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty opening mouth widely
  • Fluid discharge from ear

Since these symptoms are also common in other salivary gland problems, doctors may conduct biopsies or additional imaging tests in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis.

Causes of Salivary Gland Tumors?

Parotid cancer or salivary gland tumors are very rare, and occur when cells in the gland develop DNA abnormalities. These abnormal cells then multiply rapidly and can spread to nearby tissues and further metastasize to distant organs and areas.

Though parotid tumors are rare, certain factors may increase one’s chances of developing them. These include:

  • Age - Most cases are found to affect patients aged 50 to 60
  • Gender - Men are more likely to get parotid cancer than women
  • Prolonged radiation or chemical exposure
  • Previous case of cancer
  • Family history

Lifestyle and work environment factors are also said to increase one’s risk of developing salivary gland tumors or parotid cancer. The condition is often found to be linked with those who work in plumbing, asbestos mining and rubber manufacturing.

Parotid Lump/Cancer Complications

Most types of parotid lumps may be benign, but if left untreated, they may grow larger and may even turn cancerous. In cases where the lumps were not removed completely, they may grow back. Both occurrences are quite rare.

Similar to all types of cancer, malignant parotid lumps can quickly metastasize to other nearby tissues and organs if left untreated.

Parotid Surgery in Singapore

Treatment for parotid or salivary gland cancer depends on the tumor’s size, location, type and stage, as well as the patient’s overall health.

Surgery remains the most common and effective form of treatment for parotid tumors, particularly those that are benign, slow-growing and still in their early stages. The procedure may involve removing part or all of the salivary gland in a process known as parotidectomy. If the tumor has metastasized to nearby tissues and organs such as the lymph nodes, these will also be removed.

Reconstruction surgery typically follows the actual parotid procedure. This is done to repair the facial structures and nerves that may have been moved or replaced during the surgery, as well as restore or improve the patient’s ability to breathe, speak, chew or swallow.

Singapore ENT surgeon Christopher Goh specializes in the comprehensive management of head, thyroid and neck conditions, skilled in such procedures as parotidectomy, thyroidectomy, and neck dissection, among others. Book a consultation with Dr. Goh by calling 9754-4719.


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Medicine, for ENT surgeon Professor Christopher Goh, is not just about treating the disease. Equally important is caring for patients in a holistic way and being willing to go the distance with them...

Tel No: (+65) 9754 4719, (+65) 6933 0451
Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre
#04-21/22/34, 38 Irrawaddy Road
Singapore 329563
Parkway East Medical Centre
#03-07, 319 Joo Chiat Place
Singapore 427989