BACKGROUND : Papillary cystadenoma is a rare benign epithelial tumor of the salivary gland, which is characterized by papillary structures and oncocytic cells with rich eosinophilic cytoplasm. We found only one case of papillary cystadenoma in nearly 700 cases of salivary gland tumors. Our case was initially mistaken for a tumor of the right temporomandibular joint (TMJ) capsule rather than of parotid gland origin. Preoperative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) should be carefully studied, which allows for appropriate preoperative counseling and operative planning. METHODS : Here, we report an unusual case of a 54-year-old woman with a parotid gland papillary cystadenoma (PGPC) that was misdiagnosed as a tumor of the right TMJ capsule. She was initially admitted to our hospital due to a mass anterior to her right ear inadvertently found 5 d ago. Preoperative CT and MRI revealed a well circumscribed tumor that was attached to the right TMJ capsule. The patient underwent a resection through an incision for TMJ, but evaluation of an intraoperative frozen section revealed a benign tumor of the parotid gland. Then we removed part of the parotid gland above the temporal facial trunk. The facial nerve was preserved. Postoperative histopathological findings revealed that the tumor was PGPC. No additional treatment was performed. There was no recurrence during a 20-mo follow-up period. CONCLUSIONS : The integrity of the interstitial space around the condyle in MRI or CT should be carefully evaluated for parotid gland or TMJ tumors.