Breast Surgery

There are around 102,000 breast operations every year in the NHS in England, and 60% of admissions in the specialty are for primary breast cancer treatment.

The GIRFT breast surgery report presented the most complete picture of breast surgery activity there has ever been: the first time that data about all breast operations in England has been brought together, whether recorded as plastic surgery, breast surgery, general surgery or another specialty. 

 Breast surgery teams work closely with plastic surgery teams (oncoplastic breast surgery) to safely remove cancer but also maintain breast appearance, from hiding scars to full breast reconstruction.  

The report’s recommendations aim to empower patients to have more control and choice over their tests and treatment. 

Miss Fiona MacNeill

Co-author and former GIRFT clinical lead for breast surgery

Fiona is the joint author of the GIRFT national report for breast surgery. Since completing the national review she has now left the GIRFT programme.

Miss Tracey Irvine

Co-author and GIRFT senior clinical advisor

Tracey is a consultant breast surgeon at the Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. She is co-author of the GIRFT national specialty report for breast surgery and joined the GIRFT programme in June 2017.

Useful information

  • Breast cancer is the most common female cancer, accounting for around 15% of all newly diagnosed cancers in the UK (approximately 55,000 women and 400 men a year, or 150 people a day).
  • 60% of cancers are diagnosed as a result of GP referrals; 30% as a result of the NHS Breast Screening Programme (NHSBSP).
  • Breast cancer incidence increases with age; more than 25% of breast cancers are diagnosed in people over 75 and fewer than 10% in those under 50.
  • There are more than 500,000 new outpatient referrals in breast surgery every year in England.
  • Breast surgeons also carry out surgery not related to cancer removal, including the removal of benign lumps, lesions or tissue, surgery to correct overgrowth (male and female), treatment of infections, surgery to correct underdevelopment in females, and surgery to change gender (usually mastectomy for female to male gender reassignment). 
Changes to referrals, tests and treatment in light of COVID-19 can improve breast surgery

Measures to protect patients and allow clinicians to focus on those with the greatest need are among the key recommendations in the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) national report for breast surgery, helping the NHS to restore safe and efficient care post-pandemic.

Find out more about GIRFT’s data-led approach and best practice resources:

In February 2021, GIRFT published its national speciality report for Breast Surgery:

Click above to view the pdf report

Watch the video about the Breast Surgery report…

Click above to play the Breast Surgery national report video