Photo Rounds

Multiple growths on face

A 52-year-old woman presented to her family physician (FP) with many growths on her face that she first noticed a year earlier. The FP noted a particularly large one that was near the angle of the right jaw. She had no symptoms and no history of skin cancer. She was otherwise healthy.

What’s your diagnosis?


Figure 1

Multiple growths on face

While the differential diagnosis for these lesions (FIGURE 1A) included basal cell carcinoma, the FP had reason to suspect that these papules were actually sebaceous hyperplasia.

The FP saw a pattern of crown-like vessels and popcorn-like structures (FIGURE 1B) when he examined the patient with his dermatoscope. None of the vessels crossed the midline, and the popcorn-like structures were hyperplastic sebaceous glands. The FP photographed the largest lesion with a dermatoscope attached to his smart phone and showed the reassuring pattern to the anxious patient. He explained to her why this was not skin cancer and how hyperplasia of sebaceous glands is often normal for aging facial skin. He also offered her treatment if she thought that the lesions were cosmetically unappealing.

The patient said that she would be grateful to have the largest lesion treated because it did bother her when she looked in the mirror. The FP treated this lesion using electrosurgery with a blunt tipped electrode, on a setting of 2.1, without anesthesia. He warned the patient before he applied the activated electrode to the skin, and the patient tolerated the procedure well. The sebaceous glands melted easily with the current. The result appeared gray and was expected to heal with minimal to no scarring. At a future visit, the patient said that she was happy with the result and asked if additional lesions could be treated with the same electrosurgical approach.

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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