A Global License for Breast Surgery – my call to action!

speech in European Parliament cropped

Guest blogger Shirley Bianca, patient advocate and artist

I am a two-time breast cancer survivor. My diseased breast, which had a triple-negative collision tumour, was partially removed and immediately reconstructed with autologous tissue followed by chemotherapy and radiation. Exactly five years later a recurrence was diagnosed and the tumour was successfully removed again.

I am lucky to have received top-quality health care. However I discovered that many women with breast cancer, knowing they need surgery, are afraid of looking disfigured after their operation. This made me curious!

I found out that many breast centres have no specialists in breast surgery, and that many doctors who perform breast surgery may do just a handful cases a year. This made me furious!

I then learned that breast cancer surgery is not seen as a specialist competency, and surgeons do not require a specific licence to operate on breast cancer patients.

This lack of specialization results in too many patients with mutilations and unnecessary mastectomies.

This is heart breaking and unacceptable!


I am calling for the concept of a formal global license in specialist breast cancer surgery to be established by the World Health Organization, with oncological and reconstructive surgery integrated as a part of breast surgical training worldwide.

A single approved academic and surgical training programme should be offered worldwide for the licensing of breast cancer specialists. This would make it possible to set up a global Register of Specialists available online to breast cancer patients.

I would like to appeal to breast surgeons worldwide to support this call and help me establish a working group to set up a global initiative for Breast Surgery Licensing, with the goal of obtaining support from the WHO.

I count on you, because we affected women deserve the best treatment!

I strongly believe that only specialists in breast surgery should be allowed to operate on breast cancer patients.

We need more “Expert Eyes” (see below)

We need Global Licensing of Breast Surgery

If you support this call and feel you can help, please contact me at Shirley.Bianca@gmx.net

The Expert Eye

the expert eye

The Expert Eye was painted by Shirley Bianca. This image has now been adopted as the symbol of her campaign for a Global Licensing in Specialized Breast Surgery.

Shirley has also used her art to reach out to other women diagnosed with breast cancer, many of whom deeply fear surgery to their breasts. “Message of Hope”, a series of 22 paintings, has been exhibited around the world – most recently in the European Parliament – and can be seen here.


8 thoughts on “A Global License for Breast Surgery – my call to action!

  1. Cathy Hirsch

    Thank you, Shirley, for your thoughtful and well reasoned proposal. I hope it generates productive discussion. Thanks also for all your hard work to improve the lives of breast cancer patients and survivors!

    1. shirley bianca

      Thanks Cathy! You are very important to me, you are helping me to disseminate my painted survivorship story “Message of Hope” and also “The Guide for Patients and Survivors on Breast Cancer””, initiated by the ZEBRA Breast Cancer Counselling Centre in Dusseldorf and the European Cancer Patient Coalition in Brussels.

  2. Santos Soto

    Dear Shirley, I strongly support your proposal. A formal global license for breast cancer surgical practice will facilitate the harmonization of breast care worlwide and will help prioritize the needs of breast cancer patients. I will be honored to join the initiative.
    Santos Soto

  3. Werner Audretsch M.D.

    “Being aware of 1.6 million new breast cancer patients a year around the world, it is a shame that we do not have a certificated license in breast surgery including oncology, reconstruction, breast conserving, conservative mastectomy and all surgical varieties of aesthetic and correcting interventions, on a global level.
    Since the diagnosis hits the patients in a life period of highest responsibility to their social environment, it remains a scandal that best surgical treatment is limited mostly to women and men who can afford the expenses, because the current concept is still frittered between the business of the societies and does not function in the real world without money.
    Any surgeon can “touch” the breast of a breast cancer patient, naturally resulting in poor oncologic and cosmetic results.
    We know that recovering the integral body image of patients, in which breast aesthetics plays a crucial role in both genders of all ages, is a fundamental element of cure.”

  4. shirley bianca

    Santos, I am so grateful for your strong words and thoughts!
    Let´s work and fight together and reach our goal, which is The Global License in Specialized Breast Surgery!

  5. shirley bianca

    Thank you for your comment Prof. Dr. Audretsch!
    I feel very honoured, because I know you are a VIP in the Breast Cancer Community, a renowned breast surgeon and one of the most ambitious teachers worldwide.

  6. Zacharoula Sidiropoulou

    100% supported,
    we breast surgeons need to be educated, update and even more important fully dedicated and validated
    Thank you for this view and call!!

  7. shirley bianca

    I am so grateful for your comment dear Dr. Zacharoula Sidiropoulou, because I am aware that many breast surgeons are thinking like you!!!
    There are great efforts on the way working out a concept for creating a “Breast Surgery Certification”.
    We patients need the educated and qualified specialist and yes, the formal global license in breast surgery accepted in all countries unfortunately does not exist.
    Thank you so much for your 100% support!!!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

4 × 1 =

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>