Photo Rounds

Growing lesion on cheek

A 75-year-old man presented to his family physician (FP) with a growing lesion on his left cheek (FIGURE 1A). The FP noted that it had central ulceration and was firm to the touch. He marked out the border of the lesion with a surgical marker and measured the diameter to be 1.4 cm. The patient was otherwise healthy, and his hypertension was currently under control. He had a history of working outdoors for many decades in the construction industry.

What’s your diagnosis?


Figure 1

Growing lesion on cheek

The FP suspected that this was a basal cell carcinoma (BCC) or squamous cell carcinoma. He leaned toward a BCC because of the pearly border on the edge, but knew that a biopsy diagnosis was needed before planning definitive treatment.

The FP recommended performing a shave biopsy that day. (See the Watch & Learn video on “Shave biopsy.”) After obtaining patient consent, he injected 1% lidocaine with epinephrine and waited for the epinephrine to work. He performed the shave biopsy with a Dermablade, and used a cotton-tipped applicator to vigorously apply aluminum chloride to the site. He used a twisting motion and pressure to achieve hemostasis. The bleeding stopped, and the FP dressed the lesion with petrolatum and some gauze. Dermatopathology revealed a sclerosing BCC.

The FP realized this was an aggressive tumor and referred the patient for Mohs surgery. The surgery required 4 excisions to get clean margins (FIGURE 1B). The usual 4- to 5-mm margins with an elliptical excision would not have removed the full tumor.

Photos and text for Photo Rounds Friday courtesy of Richard P. Usatine, MD. This case was adapted from: Karnes J, Usatine R. Basal cell carcinoma. In: Usatine R, Smith M, Mayeaux EJ, et al. Color Atlas of Family Medicine. 2nd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2013:989-998.

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