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Overview of Surgery

The primary treatment for both benign and malignant tumors is surgery. A lot of patients are fearful of having this surgery because they are concerned that their face will be permanently paralyzed.

It is important for patients to remember that the chances of having permanent facial paralysis after this surgery is extremely low.

It is not recommended that patients put off this surgery because they are afraid that their face will be permanently paralyzed. The vast majority of parotid surgeries go very well, and the facial nerve does not get damaged during the surgery.

The facial nerve will be moved during surgery, which will cause trauma to the nerve, and that can result in temporary facial weakness but that should resolve over time.

The surgical goal for a benign tumor is to remove the tumor along with a small amount of the normal tissue surrounding it to prevent a recurrence of the tumor.

The goal for the removal of a malignant tumor is to ensure that the cancer is completely removed and to determine if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes.

Key Considerations for Surgery:

  • Patients should select a skilled surgeon who has a lot of experience treating parotid tumors.

     
  • If a patient is unable to find an experienced surgeon in their area, the patient may want to consider traveling to a larger medical facility with surgeons who regularly handle these types of cases. Although traveling for surgery is not ideal, many patients choose to travel to make sure that this surgery is performed correctly the first time to reduce the risk of having recurrences, and/or serious complications that will affect them for years after the initial treatment.

     
  • If possible, patients should try to find a medical facility that offers frozen section pathology, which allows the tumor to be examined by pathologists while the patient is on the operating table. The best time to treat the tumor is during the initial operation. The information that a surgeon receives from the frozen section pathologists will allow the surgeon to make informed decisions for the patient and can alleviate the need to go back and do a second surgery after the final pathology is received.

     
  • It is important that patients understand and follow all of the pre-operative instructions that they are provided. If a patient is confused about these instructions, they should ask their surgeon to explain what they need to do before surgery.

     
  • It is normal for a patient to feel anxious, worried, and stressed before having this surgery. Patients should lean on sources of support, such as family, friends, and support groups of fellow patients to help alleviate some of their anxiety. You can meet fellow parotid patients in our patient support group forum.

For more information about parotid tumor surgery, click here to watch Video 3 in the Mayo Clinic Parotid Tumor Guide series, and refer to the other tabs in this section.

Click here to learn more about this topic in our podcast series, Parotid Tumor Podcast. 

References

1. Mayo Clinic. (2018, October 8.) Mayo Clinic Parotid Tumor Guide: Parotid Tumor Surgery [Video File]. Retrieved by https://youtu.be/CD60VJxATek

2. Mayo Clinic. (2018, October 8.) Mayo Clinic Parotid Tumor Guide: Parotid Tumor Surgery at Mayo Clinic [Video File]. Retrieved by https://youtu.be/ESPHg0XT1gg

2. The content in this section was drafted in consultation with Eric J. Moore, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.