If you've been diagnosed with a parotid tumor, you may be a little concerned and probably have a lot of questions. We'll help you understand what a parotid tumor is, symptoms you may experience, what to expect from a professional diagnosis, how it can affect your oral health, and what treatment can look like to get your health back on track. By having a strong basis of knowledge about your condition, we hope you'll be able to meet this thing head-on so your health and wellbeing is something you can continue to smile about.
How A Parotid Tumor Can Affect Your Oral Health
To best understand what a parotid tumor is, you'll want to know what the gland it affects does. The parotid gland is one of three salivary glands that help in the creation of saliva – that important watery substance in your mouth that aids in the digestion of foods and the clearing of bacteria from your teeth and your gums.
There are two parotid glands, one in front of each ear. Saliva is brought to your mouth from these glands through a tube called the parotid duct.
The other salivary glands are under the tongue (the sublingual gland) and below the jaw (the submandibular gland).
A tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue. According to the Mayo Clinic, tumors in salivary glands are most commonly located in the parotid glands. Thankfully most of these tumors are benign (not harmful), but they can become cancerous (malignant). If you think you may have a parotid tumor and you haven't had it checked out yet, it's important to get it checked out by your medical professional right away.
Parotid cancer is relatively uncommon. According to the American Cancer Society, less than 1% of all cancers in the United States are salivary gland cancers.
The Cleveland Clinic says about 50% of salivary gland tumors are cancerous and that the exact cause of these cancers is unknown.
Learn about oral cancers.
If you have a parotid gland tumor, you may experience one or more of the following parotid tumor symptoms:
- A lump or swelling in the mouth, jaw, or neck
- Consistent pain around the parotid gland
- Trouble swallowing
- Difficulty opening your mouth completely.
- Numbness in your face
- Muscle fatigue in your face
Benign tumors are usually removed via surgery. Antibiotics and pain medication are generally used in aftercare to prevent infection and minimize discomfort.
If you have a malignant parotid tumor, one or more of the following treatments may be utilized depending on the severity of your cancer and if it's spread to other parts of your body:
Cancer will be cut out of the infected area.
- Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy sends high beams of energy to kill cancer cells.
Chemical drug treatments can kill cancer cells.
- Targeted Drug Therapy
Targets genes and proteins to stop cancer cell growth.
Immunotherapy can amplify or suppress your immune system's natural responses as needed.
A parotid tumor diagnosis sounds scary, but keep in mind that they are often benign, and even when these tumors are malignant, they are treatable. Whether or not you've been diagnosed with a tumor, it's essential that you practice good oral hygiene, eat a nutritious diet, and stay active to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Be sure to brush at least twice a day, and don't forget to brush your tongue. Consider using helpful products like an antimicrobial mouth rinse and tongue scrapers. And be sure to see your dental professional for regular appointments.
You may not avoid a medical issue as complex as a parotid tumor, but by taking good care of yourself, your body, and your glands will best be able to overcome the adverse effects of any disease you may contract. We wish you strength, love, and quick recovery – that will truly be something to smile about.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.