The parotid glands help to make saliva. They are found either side of the mouth, just in front of each ear canal. Sometimes people may develop a lump in their parotid gland, most often in front of or below their ear. This could potentially be caused by a tumour.
The majority of parotid tumours are benign, meaning that they won't spread or cause damage elsewhere in the body. Benign tumours can be present for several months with no real change, and they are not linked to smoking or any other known risk factors. Other tumours can be malignant, meaning that they can spread and cause damage elsewhere, including to our facial nerves and lymph nodes. These tumours can also cause us pain and discomfort.
If you have any kind of lump or tumour in your parotid gland, we will usually recommend a type of surgery called a parotidectomy to have it removed.
Although 80% of lumps found in the parotid gland are benign, a proportion can continue to grow and may turn malignant later on in life. Larger lumps can be uncomfortable and unpleasant to look at. The bigger the lump gets, the harder it is to remove, which is why it's good to act soon. Until we have removed the lump, it can be hard to know exactly what was causing it, so surgery is often a necessary precaution.
If you have any concerns about lumps or pain in your face, particularly in the areas around the parotid glands (near to the ear and cheek), the best thing is for you to come in for a proper examination where my team and I can find out exactly what is going on. We will be able to answer any questions you might have and advise you on the best form of treatment.
A total parotidectomy is the complete removal of the parotid gland through surgery. In most cases we would perform a partial parotidectomy, where just the lump and some of the tissue around it are removed. This surgery is done under a general anaesthetic, meaning you'll be asleep for it. During surgery, a long cut is made from your ear down to your neck. (This cut will heal very well over time, meaning that you should only have a discrete scar in the long term.)
Some of the nerves in your skin may be affected as part of the operation, meaning that the side of your face might feel numb for a while afterwards, up to a few months in some cases. A parotidectomy can also sometimes result in a permanently numb ear lobe.
During surgery, dissection of the parotid lump is often very close to the facial nerve. Bruising of the nerve can result in a weakness of one side or part of your face. A serious but extremely rare complication of parotid surgery is permanent weakness.
When you wake up from the anaesthetic you may need to have a plastic tube or “drain” attached to prevent any blood from clotting under the skin. You will need to stay in hospital for up to 48 hours before you can go home. This allows us to keep an eye on you and to make sure that your recovery is going well. You will be allowed home after we have removed the drain and when we are happy that you are able to drink and swallow without any trouble.
Following a parotidectomy, it is normal to feel some pain for a while. We will provide you with painkillers to help manage this. You should be able to eat and drink as normal, though chewing can be a bit tricky for the first few days. I will normally recommend that you take a couple of weeks off work to rest and fully recover.
At Circle, our Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Unit specialises in giving an accurate diagnosis for any medical conditions relating to the ear, throat and nose, followed by the appropriate non-surgical or surgical treatment. I work as part of a wider team of experts, each with our own sub-speciality, and together we will identify and treat whatever problems you may be having, making sure that you get the best possible treatment and the highest quality of care.
As a dedicated ENT doctor, I have spent years helping people achieve a better quality of life by providing treatment for the range of illnesses and injuries that can hold us back. If you have found any unusual lumps around your ear and cheek, or if you suspect you are experiencing problems with your parotid gland, the best thing is to come in for an examination. I will be delighted to meet with you and get you started on the path to full recovery.
- Adenoid removal
- Deafness treatment
- Ear infection treatment
- ENT assessment
- Functional endoscopic sinus surgery
- Grommets insertion (glue ear treatment)
- Head and neck malignancy surgery
- Hearing loss management
- Hoarseness diagnosis and treatment
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- Nasal surgery (septoplasty)
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