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Treatment of Benign Parotid Tumors

The primary treatment option for a benign parotid tumor is surgery. It is important for patients to remember that even benign parotid tumors can cause problems.

Parotid tumors should not be ignored or observed except in very unique circumstances. If you are told that you have a benign tumor, that does not mean that you should do nothing about it, as both benign and malignant parotid tumors should be evaluated.  

Observation of a parotid tumor is not a good idea for most patients for the following reasons:

  • The diagnostic tests could be wrong. The diagnostic tests, such as a fine needle aspiration (FNA), are never completely accurate, and some tumors diagnosed as benign may, in fact, be malignant.
     
  • Some benign tumors will transform into malignant tumors, including the most common benign tumor pleomorphic adenoma.
     
  • The benign tumors can grow to a large size and can cause functional and cosmetic deformity.
     
  • It is better to remove the tumor when it is small instead of allowing it to grow. The removal of a larger tumor can cause additional problems, such as a more extensive surgery.
     
  • The larger the tumor gets, the more risk there is that the tumor could become involved with the facial nerve making removal of the tumor more complicated.
     
  • Benign tumors can become infected and cause pain, abscess, and other problems.

Typically, physicians will only observe a benign parotid tumor in a select group of patients whose age, or underlying health condition makes surgical treatment of the tumor dangerous for the patient.

Even in those cases, the parotid tumor is generally only observed if the physician can be assured that the tumor is benign and is not the type that transforms into a malignant tumor.

It is very important that a patient is examined by an appropriate specialist who is trained in recognizing, diagnosing, and properly treating a parotid tumor.

Reference

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