A breast surgeon is a surgeon who has a strong commitment to the evaluation and care of patients with benign (noncancerous) and malignant (cancer) breast disease.
Management of breast disease has become increasingly complicated and nuanced. A breast surgeon needs to stay abreast of new developments in the field of breast disease, which affects the surgeon’s decision-making process in the management of the breast patient. This may include decisions on whether surgery is required or not, and the extent of the surgery required. It may include decisions based on the patient’s individual risk of development of breast cancer in the future, and what strategies may be employed to decrease that risk.
Additionally, new surgical techniques such as nipple-sparing mastectomy and various oncoplastic procedures are employed by surgeons who are specialized in breast cancer.
While all breast surgeons in the United States have completed a surgical residency, some breast surgeons have completed additional training, called a fellowship, which was dedicated to breast surgery. These surgeons who have performed subspecialty training in the management of breast disease are trained in the management of the complex breast surgery patient.
How do you know if your surgeon is a breast surgeon? Ask the following questions:
- Have you done a breast surgery fellowship?
- How many cases of breast surgery do you see in a given week, or during a year?
- What proportion of your practice is breast-related?
- Who is part of your multidisciplinary team?
- What societies do you belong to; what meetings do you attend?
- Have you been involved in breast cancer research, and is there the potential for me, as a patient, to participate in clinical trials?
You may also ask these additional questions:
- Do you perform nipple-sparing mastectomy?
- Do you make an effort to hide the incision by placing it in areas of the breast and armpit when possible and safe to obtain a better cosmetic result?
- Do you incorporate oncoplastic techniques into your breast surgery practice?