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Treatment of Malignant Parotid Tumors

The primary treatment for a malignant parotid tumor is always surgery, unless the tumor cannot be completely removed through surgery, or the patient is too ill or frail to undergo surgery.

In those circumstances, a patient may then undergo other treatment options, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation is used after surgery to decrease the chances of having a recurrence. There are different types of radiation that may be utilized:

  • IMRT Radiation:   A type of radiation that kills tumor cells, prevents regrowth, and radiates a larger field.
  • Proton Beam Radiation:  A type of radiation that also attempts to kill tumor cells but has a narrower field to allow the treatment area to be better targeted, which protects the surrounding structures.

Both types of radiation therapy are effective, but the key consideration for deciding which one to use will be centered on the protection of normal tissue surrounding the area that is being radiated. Radiation can cause loss of normal tissue, damage of bone, damage of nerves, and damage of blood vessels.

In general, physicians do not like to give large doses of radiation to the same area more than once, and they do not like to do the radiation treatments close in time to each other.

A patient should thoroughly discuss the pros and cons of each type of radiation with their physician to determine the best option for their individual situation.

Patients can find centers that offer proton beam radiation by clicking here.


In general, chemotherapy has not been effective in the treatment of parotid tumors but more advances are being made in this area every day. Additional research is needed to find targeted therapies that will better treat parotid tumors.

Chemotherapy may be used as a booster to radiation to help decrease the bulk of the tumor and to make the radiation more effective. It may also be used to make the radiation more toxic to the tumor, which will make it easier for the radiation to kill the cancer cells.


1. Mayo Clinic. (2018, October 8.) Mayo Clinic Parotid Tumor Guide: Recurrence [Video File]. Retrieved by

2. Mayo Clinic. (2018, October 8.) Mayo Clinic Parotid Tumor Guide: Parotid Tumor Types [Video File]. Retrieved by

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