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Disease Profile

Warthin tumor

Prevalence estimates on Rare Medical Network websites are calculated based on data available from numerous sources, including US and European government statistics, the NIH, Orphanet, and published epidemiologic studies. Rare disease population data is recognized to be highly variable, and based on a wide variety of source data and methodologies, so the prevalence data on this site should be assumed to be estimated and cannot be considered to be absolutely correct.


US Estimated

Europe Estimated

Age of onset





Autosomal dominant A pathogenic variant in only one gene copy in each cell is sufficient to cause an autosomal dominant disease.


Autosomal recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of each gene of the chromosome are needed to cause an autosomal recessive disease and observe the mutant phenotype.


dominant X-linked dominant inheritance, sometimes referred to as X-linked dominance, is a mode of genetic inheritance by which a dominant gene is carried on the X chromosome.


recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of a gene on the X chromosome cause an X-linked recessive disorder.


Mitochondrial or multigenic Mitochondrial genetic disorders can be caused by changes (mutations) in either the mitochondrial DNA or nuclear DNA that lead to dysfunction of the mitochondria and inadequate production of energy.


Multigenic or multifactor Inheritance involving many factors, of which at least one is genetic but none is of overwhelming importance, as in the causation of a disease by multiple genetic and environmental factors.


Not applicable


Other names (AKA)

Papillary cystadenoma lymphomatosum (formerly)


Warthin tumor is a benign tumor of the salivary gland. The first symptom is usually a painless, slow-growing bump in front of the ear, on the bottom of the mouth, or under the chin. Warthin tumors may increase in size over time, but few become cancerous. Though the cause is currently unknown, smoking is believed to increase the chance of developing Warthin tumor. Treatment may consist of surgery to remove the tumor or careful observation to watch for changes in the tumor over time.[1][2][3]


Warthin tumor is a benign (noncancerous) tumor of the salivary glands. They most commonly arise in the parotid glands, the largest salivary glands which are located in each cheek above the jaw in front of the ears. Approximately 5-14% of cases are bilateral and 12-20% of affected people experience multicentric (more than one tumor which formed separately from one another) disease.[2][3]

The first symptom is usually a firm, painless bump. Without treatment, the swelling may gradually increase overtime which can cause facial nerve palsy (difficulty moving one side of the face).[1]


The exact underlying cause of Warthin tumor is currently unknown. However, smoking is thought to increase the risk of developing the tumor. Some studies suggest that radiation exposure and autoimmune disorders may also be associated with Warthin tumor.[4][2]


A diagnosis of Warthin tumor is often suspected based on the presence of characteristic signs and symptoms. The following tests may then be ordered to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions that cause similar features:[1][3]

  • X-rays of the salivary gland (called a ptyalogram or sialogram)
  • CT scan, MRI and/or ultrasound
  • Salivary gland biopsy


Treatment of Warthin tumor generally includes surgery to remove the tumor or careful observation to watch for changes in the tumor over time. Because Warthin tumor is almost always benign, additional treatment (i.e. radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy) is rarely needed.[1][3]

Learn more

These resources provide more information about this condition or associated symptoms. The in-depth resources contain medical and scientific language that may be hard to understand. You may want to review these resources with a medical professional.

Where to Start

  • MedlinePlus was designed by the National Library of Medicine to help you research your health questions, and it provides more information about this topic.

In-Depth Information


  1. Salivary Gland Tumors. MedlinePlus. February 2014; https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001040.htm.
  2. Iwai T, Baba J, Murata S, Mitsudo K, Maegawa J, Nagahama K, Tohnai I. Warthin tumor arising from the minor salivary gland. J Craniofac Surg. September 2012; 23(5):374-376. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22976673.
  3. Sanford Dubner, MD. Benign Parotid Tumors. Medscape Reference. March 2015; https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1289560-overview#showall.
  4. Scott A Laurie, MD, FRCPC. Salivary gland tumors: Epidemiology, diagnosis, evaluation, and staging. UpToDate. September 2013; https://www.uptodate.com/contents/salivary-gland-tumors-epidemiology-diagnosis-evaluation-and-staging.

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