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What Are The First Symptoms Of A Parotid Tumor & How Do You Test For It?

Malignant parotid tumors are less common types of tumors and they characterize sudden or rapid growth of spurts. These are nodular, firm, while fix to adjacent tissues and have poorly defined peripheries.(1)

Parotid tumors occur in the parotid gland i.e. a major type of salivary gland present in humans on different sides of the mouth and front of the ears.(2)

Approximately 25percent of parotid tumor masses are non-neoplastic ones, while the remaining ones are neoplastic.(3)

What Are The First Symptoms Of A Parotid Tumor?

What Are The First Symptoms Of A Parotid Tumor?

Parotid tumor or salivary glands tumor takes place on either side of a person’s face and below his/her tongue. The tumor may affect a large number of important nerves and other related structures, which run from or near salivary glands. Common signs and symptoms associated with parotid tumor at the initial phase or benign stage are-

  • Swelling or lump in the cheek, mouth, neck, or jaw
  • Pain in the cheek, mouth, ear, jaw, or neck, which hardly goes away
  • A difference between the shape or size of the right and left sides of one’s neck or face
  • Feeling of numbness in the affected part of the face
  • Difficulty in opening the mouth widely
  • Difficulty in swallowing of food items
  • Muscles weakness on a particular side of the face
  • Draining of fluid from ears

Most of the signs and symptoms mentioned here may even take place as non-cancerous or benign parotid tumors and caused due to other conditions.(4)

How Do You Test For A Parotid Tumor?

Your doctor will recommend the following procedures to test the condition of the parotid tumor.

Physical Examination: Your doctor will feel and check your jaw, throat, and neck to identify swelling or the formation of any lump.

Biopsy Testing: Your doctor will recommend the procedure of needle biopsy, where he/she conducts a core needle biopsy or fine-needle aspiration. This step is useful for collecting a sample of blood or tissue from your body to conduct parotid tumor testing. During the needle biopsy procedure, your doctor will insert a thin needle from your skin and in the affected salivary or parotid gland. The needle thus draws out a sample of fluid or cells.

While conduction biopsy in a lab, doctors also determine the types of cells involved and whether they are benign or cancerous. Your doctor will use the collected details to recommend the right treatment procedures and calculate your prognosis.

Imaging Tests: Your doctor will recommend imaging tests of the salivary or parotid gland to understand the tumor’s size. If you have a cancerous parotid tumor, you have to undergo additional tests to check the signs related to the spread of your cancer. A few of the common imaging tests in this category are CT scan, MRI, and ultrasound procedures.(5)

X-Ray: If a patient has a swelling or lump near the jaw, the doctor will recommend for X-ray of the teeth and jaws to identify a tumor.

MRI Scan: MRI is the abbreviated form of Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This type of scanning procedure creates detailed images of various soft tissues present in the body. These scans use strong magnets and radio waves. The computer will translate a particular pattern into detailed images of the body parts. Doctors may also inject a contrast material i.e. gadolinium in the vein before starting the scanning procedure to collect details. MRI scan determines the extent and the location of a tumor, while shows enlarged lymph nodes or the presence of suspicious spots in other organs because of the spread of cancer.

Computed Tomography Scan: In the case of a computed tomography scan, doctors use X-rays for producing cross-sectional body images in detail. CT scans provide details of internal organs and soft tissues. It also highlights the shape, size, and position of a tumor, while helps you to find various enlarged lymph nodes, which may contain cancer.

Positron Emission Tomography: Positron emission tomography scan searches areas, which involve high cellular activity instead of highlighting areas, which appear abnormal according to the shape or size. This test shows whether an abnormal tumor or lump is present on any other imaging test and whether it is cancer. PET scan is useful in the case your doctor thinks that cancer spreads in other body parts but he does not know the exact location.(6)


Based on the aforementioned points, swelling, lumps, and differences in the face shape are a few of the initial symptoms of a parotid tumor. Moreover, the tests may depend on whether the tumor spreads to other body parts or not.


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 6, 2021

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