Ask The Expert
January 24, 2012
The parotid gland is one of the major salivary glands. Itís found over the jaw and in front of the ear. Like any other part of the body, tumors can grow from its tissues.
About 80% of growths in the parotid gland are benign (not cancerous. Most of these non-cancerous tumors are called pleomorphic adenomas. Fewer than 20% of lesions are malignant (cancerous) tumors.
One or both of the parotid glands can get enlarged from infection or non-infectious inflammation. This might feel like a mass. Parotid glands are made up of glands and lymph tissue. And anything that might stimulate production of white blood cells in lymph tissue might produce a mass-like effect.
Here are some worrisome symptoms of a cancerous mass:
The best way to identify the cause of the mass is to get a biopsy. A fine-needle biopsy is usually done. First, you get a local anesthetic (numbing medication). Then a needle attached to a syringe is passed into the abnormal area and some of the cells are suctioned out and examined. Sometimes the biopsy is done with an ultrasound to guide the needle into the lesion.
A pathologist can usually identify what the lesion is from the removed tissue. Then your doctor can decide the right treatment.