This is a paired large (major) gland producing saliva (spit) located on each side of the face overlying the mandible (jaw bone) immediately in front of the ears.
Lumps occur in the parotid due to abnormal overgrowth of some part of the salivary glands (a parotid gland tumour). The majority of these tumours are benign, which means that they are not cancerous and do not spread to other parts of the body. Occasionally, malignant tumours can occur in the parotid. Your specialist may recommend performing a fine needle aspirate (needle biopsy) of the lump to find out what sort of tumour you have. Sometimes a malignant lump in the parotid gland may represent a secondary cancer from cancer of the skin of the head or face.
Although 80% of these lumps are benign, in most cases we recommend that they be removed since they generally continue to grow and can become unsightly, and after many years a benign lump can turn malignant. Also the bigger the lump the more difficult it is to remove. Lastly, the diagnosis suggested following needle biopsy is sometimes wrong. There is always some concern regarding the exact cause of the lump until it removed and analysed in the pathology laboratory by specialists. Known malignant parotid lumps are best treated by surgery, and in some cases, radiation treatment is recommended after surgery.
Parotidectomy is the surgical removal of part or all of the parotid gland. The operation is performed under general anaesthesia, which means that you will be asleep throughout. The incision runs from in front of your ear and down into your neck. This incision heals very well and in time the scar is likely to be minimal. At the end of the operation the surgeon will place a plastic tube through the skin to reduce the risk of blood clot (haematoma) collecting under the skin. You will require 24 to 48 hours in hospital after the operation before the drain can be removed and you can go home. In some cases your surgeon may arrange for you to recuperate at home with the drain soon after the surgery. You will require 1 to 2 weeks off work, and you will be advised to take a bland diet and avoid rich, creamy and spicy foods to minimise saliva stimulation in the remaining parotid gland.