Which physical findings are characteristic of basal cell carcinoma?

Updated: Mar 02, 2020
  • Author: Robert S Bader, MD; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
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Clinical presentation of BCC varies by type. Physical examination of the skin aids in determination of tumor extent, subtype, and involvement of important cosmetic and functional structures. Matted BCCs may indicate deeper tumor invasion and involvement of deeper underlying structures. In patients with recurrent or deeply infiltrative tumors, involvement of the facial nerve or branches of the trigeminal nerve should be investigated. Facial nerve function can be monitored by comparing facial symmetry during voluntary facial movements with that at rest. Sensory nerve function can be tested and compared to the nonaffected side by means of light touch and pinprick. Orbital invasion can cause diplopia, proptosis, and ophthalmoplegia. Any limitation in ocular movements and/or diplopia should be tested.

BCC seldom causes regional or distant metastasis, with the exception of the metatypical basosquamous type. To evaluate for lymph node metastasis, particular attention should be taken to examine the parotid posterior auricular, suboccipital, and upper cervical groups of lymph nodes.

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