Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery MBChB (UCT).
Fellow of South African College of Surgeons
Diploma in Obstetrics & Gynaecology
WHAT IS A Parotidectomy?
The parotid glands rest below and in front of the ears and produce saliva. These glands are salivary glands. The secretion of saliva assists in the digestion of food particles and inhibits tooth decay. Infections, tumours and a dry mouth (Xerostomia) have a severe impact on the salivary glands.
What types of parotid gland tumours are there?
The majority of tumours that form in the parotid glands are benign but can sometimes complications. These benign tumours include pleomorphic adenoma, basal cell adenoma, canalicular adenoma and Warthin’s tumour. Malignant tumours such as Acinic cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma, squamous cell and salivary duct carcinoma are aggressive and require urgent surgical intervention.
Why do I need a parotidectomy?
A parotidectomy is needed to treat salivary gland cancer, malignant tumours, obstructions in the salivary ducts and chronic infections. It’s vital to notify your doctor should you notice signs of inflammation or swollen glands.
Dr Mitchell conducts the following diagnostic procedures to diagnose parotid gland tumours:
- Physical examination: Dr Mitchell performs a physical exam to check for signs of swollen parotid glands. To do this, she feels the neck, jaw or throat to check for unusual lumps.
- Imaging tests (ultrasound, MRI, CT scan, x-rays): Imaging tests that include an ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan as well as x-rays capture images of the gland to detect the presence, size and location of the tumours.
- Biopsy: The doctor extracts abnormal cells from the salivary glands to assist in the diagnosis of parotid gland tumours. She sends the samples to the laboratory for further analysis.
Treatment depends on the extent of cancer. Surgery to remove a parotid tumour is the only way to stop the spread of the disease. The specific treatment required depends on its stage, size and location in the gland. In certain instances, the surgeon performs a lymphadenectomy to remove the lymph nodes in the neck as well as nerves, muscles, blood vessels and connective tissue. In addition to surgery, you will most likely undergo radiation or chemotherapy treatment. The surgeon performs one of the two parotidectomies:
- Total parotidectomy: This procedure involves the removal of the entire gland. In severe cases only, the surgeon may have to remove the gland along with facial nerves and nearby tissue. After this procedure, you may find it difficult to move your face. The removal of nerves and tissue, however, depends on the size and location of the tumour. The surgeon cuts from the ear down the neck to access the gland.
- Superficial parotidectomy: This procedure does not involve the interference of facial nerves and does not affect the movement of the face. A superficial parotidectomy consists of the removal of only a portion, usually the outer component of the affected gland.
Dr Mitchell provides instructions on how to care for and clean near the incision or drain. She prescribes medication to relieve pain and prevent infection. It’s recommended to avoid strenuous exercise for at least two weeks after the procedure.
After the procedure, you will find it hard to chew or swallow. You may experience pain after the intake of cold solubles such as ice-cream, coke or solid foods. Because of your sensitivity to these foods, the doctor will recommend a diet of soft puddings, cooked fruit or yoghurt. Should you experience strained or irregular bowel movements, Dr Mitchell will prescribe fibre supplements for constipation. In severe cases, she may suggest a mild laxative.
Please note: The information provided above and on this website is for education and interest purposes only. It is not intended to replace a personal one-on-one consultation, nor is it meant to substitute professional medical advice, diagnose or treat any condition. A consultation with a specialist and qualified health care provider such as Dr Mitchell is essential for correct diagnosis and management, as well as to answer any queries that you may have. Never disregard or delay in seeking professional medical advice due to something you have read on this website. Dr Mitchell takes no responsibility for any errors or omissions present on this website and is not liable for any consequences that may occur from misinterpretation of the information on this website. In the event of uncertainty or an emergency, please visit your nearest casualty.