Breast surgeons have been specially trained to provide surgical treatments for both men and women suffering from any type of condition affecting the breast(s), such as breast cancer.

Watch an Overview of Breast Surgery

About Breast Surgery

Breast surgery is a medical specialty that deals with the surgical and non-surgical treatment of all conditions affecting the breast and related structures. Breast surgeons provide comprehensive care for patients suffering from any type of disorder or disease that affects breast health – from the discovery of breast lumps and masses, to the treatment and management of breast cancer. Although women are primarily affected by breast health issues, some conditions also affect men.

Breast surgeons specialize in the evaluation, diagnosis, treatment and management of conditions in which patients experience masses, lumps, infection and pain in the breasts. After visiting a breast surgeon with these or similar symptoms, the physician may review previous test results and complete additional diagnostic tests, such as medical imaging scans or biopsies, to determine the cause of the symptoms. The surgeon is trained to recommend whether the condition can be addressed in a non-surgical manner, resorting to surgery as a last resort or as a proactive measure when time is of the essence.

After reviewing all necessary test results, family history reports and other pertinent medical information, the breast surgeon will present a personalized plan of treatment for each patient. If a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer, the type and stage of cancer, among other patient-specific factors will dictate the type of treatment that is prescribed. In some cases, the cancer is so advanced that the surgeon will recommend undergoing a mastectomy, which is the removal of the entire breast. In other cases, the tumor and tissues immediately surrounding it may be removed without the necessity of removing the entire breast – known as a lumpectomy. Depending upon the type of condition diagnosed, other treatment methods or techniques may be performed.

Breast Surgery Education & Training

The education and training to become a breast surgeon begins with an undergraduate degree from an accredited university. After graduating with an undergraduate degree, the completion of an MD or DO degree at an accredited medical school is required. During medical school, the student is trained in the general provision of healthcare in both clinical and classroom settings. After graduating from medical school, the completion of a residency is required.

Physicians that become breast surgeons generally undergo five to six years of residency training in the area of general surgery (although some physicians may have undergone residency training in other areas, such as OBGYN). During this residency, the physician will perform a variety of surgical procedures on organs and structures of the abdomen and thorax, preparing the physician for more complicated surgical operations.

Following completion of a general surgery residency, many breast surgeons undergo training in the form of a one to two year fellowship in general oncology before completing a more advanced fellowship in breast surgery oncology. During this time, the surgeon is exposed to the various facets of breast surgery, including diagnostic and operative procedures. The surgeon will perform a multitude of procedures, such as lumpectomies or mastectomies to remove malignant tumors. After completing a fellowship, the surgeon is able to begin practicing, provided they have the requisite medical licensure.