A rare case of canalicular adenoma in the parotid gland: Highlighting diagnostic limitations of fine-needle aspiration

Vivian Su, Hua Chen, Azita Khorsandi, Raymond L. Chai

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Background: Canalicular adenoma is a rare, benign tumor of primarily salivary gland origin that presents mostly in the upper lip. However, there are only six reports in the English literature detailing canalicular adenoma of the parotid gland, none of which discuss discrepancy between preoperative cytology and surgical pathology. In this report, we present a rare case of parotid gland canalicular adenoma where preoperative ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration (USFNA) suggested malignancy. The patient was treated with deep lobe parotidectomy due to the FNA results and her multiple comorbidities. However, her tumor may have been treated with observation alone if canalicular adenoma had been suspected prior to surgery. Main findings: A 59-year-old female with a history of heart and lung disease presented with a 1.6 cm well defined, enhancing lesion involving the superficial portion of the right parotid gland. This lesion was incidentally noted on CT angiography (CTA) of the neck and chest. The well-defined characteristics of this lesion on CT imaging suggested benign neoplasm. However, USFNA results were suggestive of a malignant parotid lesion. The patient subsequently underwent right deep lobe parotidectomy with facial nerve dissection and superficial musculoaponeurotic system (SMAS) rotational flap reconstruction. Surgical pathology and immunohistochemistry yielded a final diagnosis of benign canalicular adenoma. Conclusions: USFNA diagnosis of CA is extremely difficult due to its low-grade neoplastic cells mimicking neoplastic cells in other benign and malignant tumors of the head and neck. FNA remains a useful tool for assessing malignancy risk, but the results always have some level of uncertainty and do not provide sufficient detail. Therefore, FNA results should be interpreted in concert with imaging and patients' medical history. Cytopathologists can also report salivary gland FNA results in a more uniform and detailed manner by utilizing the Milan System for Reporting Salivary Gland Cytopathology (MSRSGC).

Original languageEnglish
Article number103792
JournalAmerican Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Medicine and Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2023


  • Canalicular adenoma
  • Case report
  • Cytopathology
  • Diagnostic pitfalls
  • Differential diagnosis
  • Fine-needle aspiration
  • Histopathology
  • Parotid gland tumor


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