There are two parotid glands, one on each side of the face. Each parotid gland is shaped a bit like a wedge. They fit over the back of the jawbone just in front of each ear. The name parotid comes from the Greek word meaning “near the ear”. Saliva runs from the parotid gland, along a tube called the parotid duct and into the mouth near the back teeth.
The nerve to your face muscles runs through the middle of the parotid gland. This nerve is called the facial nerve. The facial nerve supplies feeling to the muscles that move the face. The nerve to the skin of your ear runs past the back of the parotid gland.
The gland is made up of two parts: a deep part and a superficial part, which is close to the surface. Normally, the parotid gland cannot be felt.
The aim of the operation is to remove the swelling with a small rim of normal parotid gland. The rest of the gland is left alone. We make every effort to avoid damaging the facial nerve.
You will have a general anaesthetic and be completely asleep while the operation is done.
You will lose the swelling on the side of your face or neck. The lump will be examined in the laboratory to find out exactly what it is and to see if further treatment is needed.
Having part of the parotid gland removed will not give you a dry mouth from a reduction in your saliva.
Are there any alternatives?
There are no drugs or x-ray treatments that will safely get rid of the lump. There are investigations that may be done to check the exact position of the swelling and what it might be. These may include:
Fine needle aspiration (FNA) - a small needle is inserted into the swelling and some cells are sucked out. This tells us if the mass is parotid tissue, a lymph node or even a collection of pus.