What Does It Mean to Be a Fellowship-Trained Surgical Breast Oncologist 

Dr. Lindsay Keith


Understanding the credentials and qualifications of your healthcare providers can seem like deciphering a secret code. When it comes to treating breast cancer, one term you may come across is a “fellowship-trained surgical breast oncologist.” But what exactly does this title mean, and why does it matter to your care? Let’s delve into the journey these specialists undertake and how their unique expertise can make a difference in your treatment plan.

Defining a Fellowship-Trained Surgical Breast Oncologist

Surgical Oncologist

First, let’s unpack the term ‘surgical oncologist.’ These medical professionals are surgeons who specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of cancer. They perform surgeries to remove tumors, manage symptoms, and improve quality of life for patients battling cancer.

Fellowship Training

A ‘fellowship’ in medicine refers to a period of extra training that a doctor chooses to undertake after completing their residency. This additional training focuses on a specific field, such as breast oncology, allowing the doctor to deepen their knowledge, refine their skills, and gain specialized expertise.

So, a fellowship-trained surgical breast oncologist is a surgeon who has not only completed their general surgical training but also spent additional years studying and practicing the specific surgical treatment of breast cancer.

The Journey to Becoming a Fellowship-Trained Surgical Breast Oncologist

Becoming a fellowship-trained surgical breast oncologist involves several key stages:

  1. **Medical School:** A rigorous four-year program that covers a broad spectrum of medical knowledge.
  2. **Surgical Residency:** After medical school, the doctor enters a residency program in general surgery, lasting typically five years.
  3. **Fellowship in Surgical Oncology:** Following residency, the surgeon undertakes a fellowship program in surgical oncology, usually two to three years long, focusing on the comprehensive surgical management of cancer.
  4. **Subspecialty Fellowship in Breast Oncology:** Some surgeons go a step further, completing another one to two years focusing exclusively on breast cancer surgery.

The Importance of Fellowship Training in Breast Oncology

The additional training and exposure that come with a fellowship in breast oncology offer several key advantages:

Expertise in Complex Cases

Fellowship-trained surgical breast oncologists are equipped to handle more complex and rare cases due to their focused training and exposure to a broad spectrum of breast cancer scenarios.

Up-to-Date on Latest Advancements

These specialists are typically at the forefront of the latest research, surgical techniques, and treatment modalities in breast oncology, helping patients access the most advanced care.

Multidisciplinary Approach

They often work within multidisciplinary teams alongside medical oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, and others. This team approach ensures a comprehensive and personalized treatment plan for each patient.


Choosing a fellowship-trained surgical breast oncologist means entrusting your care to a specialist who has devoted many years to mastering the complexities of breast cancer surgery. Their extensive training and focused expertise equip them to offer superior care, especially for complex cases. It’s one way you can ensure you’re receiving the most informed, up-to-date, and comprehensive treatment available.