Breast Surgeon: Your Expert in Breast Biopsy, Surgery & Reconstruction

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What is a breast surgeon?

A breast surgeon specializes in the surgical care of breast diseases and conditions. Breast surgeons perform breast biopsy, lumpectomy, mastectomy, breast reconstruction, and other procedures to treat many breast conditions, including breast cancer in both men and women. Breast surgeons also care for patients at risk for breast cancer and those with noncancerous problems, such as breast cysts.

A breast surgeon typically: 

  • Evaluates the patient's medical history and performs a breast cancer risk assessment and physical exam

  • Orders and interprets laboratory and imaging tests

  • Prescribes medications

  • Performs minimally invasive procedures such as mammography guided biopsy

  • Performs breast surgery including lumpectomy, mastectomy, and breast reconstruction

  • Works closely with your primary care doctor and other specialists to ensure optimal care

Who should see a breast surgeon?

In most cases, people see a breast surgeon when their primary care doctor or other specialist refers them to one. Doctors often refer their patients to a breast surgeon to diagnose and treat a suspicious breast lump or change in the shape or texture of breast tissue. Breast surgeons also confirm a diagnosis of breast disease made by other doctors. A breast surgeon will evaluate your condition and determine if you need surgery and what type of procedure is right for you.

When should you see a breast surgeon?

Consider seeking care from a breast surgeon under the following situations: 

  • You feel a lump or mass in your breast or your doctor finds one on a mammogram.

  • You have breast pain unrelated to your menstrual cycle.

  • You have breast swelling, redness, or inflammation.

  • You notice a change in the shape or texture of the breast.

  • You notice a change to the appearance or texture of the breast skin.

  • You notice fluid (discharge) coming from your nipple.

What does a breast surgeon treat?

A breast surgeon treats a variety of conditions and diseases of the breast including:

  • Breast calcifications, which are lumps that are sometimes linked with precancerous breast lesions

  • Breast cancer including those individuals with a high risk of breast cancer. People with a high risk of breast cancer include men and women with mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes or a strong family history of breast cancer—such as a mother or sister with breast cancer.

  • Fat necrosis, which results in painless lumps that form from damaged and disintegrating fatty tissue

  • Fibroadenomas, which are smooth and firm noncancerous breast tumors. Sometimes , fibroadenomas increase the risk of breast cancer.

  • Fibrocystic breast disease including noncancerous breast cysts and fibrosis

  • Mammary duct ectasia, which causes inflammation and blockage of the ducts beneath the nipple

What does a breast surgeon test?

A breast surgeon can order or perform a variety of diagnostic tests including breast ultrasound, mammogram, and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). MRIs produce highly detailed images of the breast to detect abnormalities.

What procedures and treatments does a breast surgeon do?

Breast surgeons perform various procedures and treatments to treat breast diseases and conditions. Breast surgeons use minimally invasive techniques, including laparoscopic surgery when appropriate.

Common surgical procedures include: 

  • Aspiration to drain a breast cyst

  • Biopsy with X-ray or mammography guidance to diagnose breast cancer and other diseases

  • Breast cancer surgery including lumpectomy to remove a breast tumor and mastectomy to remove the entire breast

  • Prophylactic mastectomy to remove the breasts in people with a high risk of breast cancer. A prophylactic mastectomy lowers the risk of breast cancer.

  • Resection of lymph nodes to remove cancerous lymph nodes near the breast

  • Breast reconstruction to restore and rebuild the breast after mastectomy or lumpectomy

Breast surgeon training and certification

In most cases, your primary care doctor or other specialist can refer you to a well-respected breast surgeon. Whether you have a referral or you are selecting a breast surgeon on your own, there are important qualifications to look for.

Typically, a breast surgeon is a board-certified general surgeon—an MD or DO who has completed surgical residency training and passed an American Board of Surgery (ABS) certification exam that validates the doctor’s specialized knowledge and skills in general surgery.

The ABS does not certify surgeons in breast surgery. However, general surgeons can participate in the Mastery of Breast Surgery Program from the American Society of Breast Surgeons. Through this program, surgeons document their clinical performance of breast procedures and their care of breast cancer patients. Maintaining certification in breast surgery is also voluntary, but it’s a key element in establishing a surgeon’s expertise.

Surgical oncologists and other types of surgeons can also perform breast surgery. They have different but equally good surgical training as general surgeons. Talk with your referring doctor about the best type of specialist for you and for referrals to well-respected doctors.

When considering a breast surgeon, ask him or her for background on their training and experience treating your specific condition. You also want to consider the quality of the hospital where the surgeon performs surgery. If you are in need expert breast care, find nearby breast surgeons today. You can narrow your search results by distance, insurance, experience, and patient reviews, among other features.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jan 21
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

  1. MOC Part 4 – Practice Assessment Resources. The American Board of Surgery. http://www.absurgery.org/default.jsp?exam-mocpa

  2. Certification and Accreditation. The American Society of Breast Surgeons. https://www.breastsurgeons.org/certification/index.php

  3. Mastery of Breast Surgery Program. The American Society of Breast Surgeons. https://www.breastsurgeons.org/new_layout/programs/mastery/index.php

  4. Non-Cancerous Breast Conditions. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/Healthy/FindCancerEarly/WomensHealth/Non-CancerousBreastConditions/non-cancero...

  5. Stereotactic Breast Procedure Certification & Recertification. The American Society of Breast Surgeons. https://www.breastsurgeons.org/new_layout/programs/certification/stereotactic_certification.php

  6. Stereotactic (Mammographically Guided) Breast Biopsy. RadiologyInfo.org. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=breastbixr

  7. Surgery. Breastcancer.org. http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/surgery/