Pleomorphic Adenoma: A Detailed Study

A pleomorphic adenoma is the most common type of benign tumor of the salivary glands. When you or a loved one is diagnosed with a pleomorphic adenoma, you’ll probably want to know everything you can about this type of tumor. Here is a detailed study highlighting the facts about pleomorphic adenoma.


Pleomorphic adenoma, also known as a benign mixed tumor, occurs in the salivary glands, most commonly in the parotid and submandibular glands. The salivary glands are located in your mouth, neck, and throat. They are responsible for making saliva, which keeps the mouth moist, aids in health of teeth, and helps with digestion. Though rare, these types of tumors can turn into an invasive carcinoma.

Woman Holds Throat

The term “pleomorphic” derives from pleomorphism, which describes something that has a variable appearance when seen under microscopic light. Radiologists can see images of pleomorphic adenoma in radiology CME courses concerning salivary gland tumors. This type of tumor is considered mixed because of having a dual origin, being made of epithelial and myoepithelial cells.

Symptoms and Features

The most common symptom of pleomorphic adenoma, according to studies found on online radiology CME courses, are the development of a lump or swelling on, in, or near your neck, jaw, or mouth. You may also feel numbness and muscle weakness in part of your face, along with continuous pain in your salivary gland. You might have difficulty swallowing and be unable to open your mouth widely.

Pleomorphic adenoma are a typically singular, firm nodular masses that grow slowly and painlessly. The tumor can move around often, except when found in the palate. When a pleomorphic adenoma occurs in the parotid gland, the mandibular ramus can atrophy, and the tumor occurs in the parotid tail, there is a chance of manifesting as an eversion of the ear lobe. This type of tumor has a moderately high chance of recurrence.

Pleomorphic adenoma has a bossellated surface, meaning there are several round bulges. The tumor has, along with epithelial and myoepithelial cells, a capsule and stroma. The stroma in particular can be mucoid, myxoid, or be made into cartilagenous formations. The epithelial cells can take on a squamus or spindly appearance.

Epidemiology and History

Studies found on radiology online CME courses show that pleomorphic adenoma most commonly occurs in women in their mid-forties or older, but can also present in females and males as young as ten years old. You will have a higher chance of getting a salivary gland tumor if you have been exposed to radiation through treatment for head and neck cancer, or work with certain substances used in manufacturing rubber, mining for asbestos, and plumbing.

Doctor and Patient

Diagnosis and Treatment

The first step used to diagnose pleomorphic adenoma is to have a physical exam done by your primary care doctor. The doctor will feel around your jaw, neck, and throat for any lumps or swelling. The next step is to get an image test, via MRI or CT scan, which is done by specialists in the radiology department of the hospital. These specialists continue to learn about innovations in these imaging techniques through online MRI courses for radiologists. These scans help your doctor find out the size and location of the tumor.

The most common treatment for this type of tumor is surgery. If the tumor is small and located in a spot that is easy to reach, a surgeon will likely only remove the affected part of the salivary gland. If the tumor is large, your entire salivary gland may have to be removed. If the tumor extends into other structures, like facial nerves, ducts, bones, or skin, then those will need to be removed too.

If your doctor finds evidence of cancer, and the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, then your surgeon might have to remove most of those lymph nodes. After you get surgery to treat the tumor, your doctor might recommend reconstructive surgery to repair that area to improve your ability to chew, swallow, speak, and or breathe.

If you would like to know more about pleomorphic adenoma, contact AuntMinnie CME today.