Glandular tumours involving the middle ear and the mastoid are rare, and distinguishing between adenoma and adenocarcinoma is difficult. Two distinct histopathological patterns are accepted. While their clinical presentation differs, both require primary surgical treatment and both have a high rate of local recurrence. The papillary form takes a more aggressive course and wider regional spread. This pattern occurs predominantly in women. Its microscopic appearance and clinical course have been extensively described by Heffner who considered it as "low-grade adenocarcinoma of probable endolymphatic sac origin". A few cases have been associated with von Hippel-Lindau disease. The case of a 32 year old black woman is described. It is suggested that papillary adenocarcinoma of the endolymphatic sac should be considered in the spectrum of neoplasms seen in von Hippel-Lindau disease.
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