Alexander Julian Swistel, M.D.

Surgery

Locations and Appointments

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  • EPO/POS
Personal Statement

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Dr. Alexander Swistel is Associate Professor of Clinical Surgery and Associate Attending Surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and an internationally-recognized breast surgeon who pioneered many of the newest advances in breast cancer treatment.

Dr. Swistel graduated from Harvard University and completed his medical school training at Brown University Medical School.  He did his surgical residency at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, and then completed the two-year surgical oncology fellowship at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.  He joined the Surgical Attending staff at the St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center and subsequently became their first Chief of Breast Surgery.  In 1996, he was recruited by New York Hospital and joined the attending staff in surgery. There he was instrumental in coordinating efforts to develop the Weill Cornell Breast Center and became the Director of the Program. He also started their Breast Surgical Service and became its first director. Currently, he is Associate Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Weill Cornell Medical College and Associate Attending in the Department of Surgery and former Chief of the Section of Breast Surgery.

Dr. Swistel is an acknowledged expert in the field of minimally-invasive breast cancer surgery. He has pioneered many improvements in the delivery of breast cancer care for his patients over the years.  He has consistently been included on multiple Best Doctor lists, is listed in Who’s Who in America and is widely quoted as an expert in the field by the media.

In 1986, he established the first Comprehensive Breast center in Manhattan at the St. Luke’s Hospital. This served as a model for subsequent breast centers throughout the city including the Lauder Center at Sloan Kettering and the present Weill Cornell Breast Center. Recognizing that the minority population sometimes had difficulty in accessing good breast care, he received a special grant from the state to focus on screening minority patients. This program was adopted by the New York State Legislature and continues to be funded to this day. He first developed an early protocol using laser guided destruction of small breast tumor as a way to minimize surgical scars. Later, he performed the first skin sparing mastectomy in New York City in 1991.  That technique did much to minimize the surgical defect related to standard radical mastectomy and the technique was combined with immediate reconstruction.  He was one of the first physicians in New York to perform sentinel lymph node biopsy, then a new technique for minimizing axillary surgery for breast cancer patients.

Dr. Swistel has been in the forefront of oncoplastic surgery that combines optimal cancer surgery principles for cure along with cosmetic techniques to minimize scars.  He initiated the first academic based oncoplastic surgery program in the tri-state area. He introduced nipple sparing mastectomy to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and improved on the surgical technique with an infra -mammary approach which leaves the patient with virtually no visible scar. Along with the radiation oncologists, Dr. Swistel began the first successful intra-operative radiation therapy for early stage breast cancer in New York City. He has lectured widely on the topic of breast cancer surgery and prevention strategies and has developed a high risk program at Weill Cornell for patients who are at elevated risk for developing breast cancer. He has published widely in peer-reviewed journals and is on the editorial board of a number of those publications. Dr. Swistel was on the founding medical board for New York’s Komen organization for the “Race for the Cure” and remains on the National Medical Board for the Young Survivor’s Coalition. He is past President of the New York Metropolitan Breast Cancer Group, which is the oldest and largest regional group of breast cancer specialists in the nation and He is a member of multiple specialized cancer organizations.   He has received many honors and awards in recognition of his important contributions to the advancement of minimally invasive procedures for breast cancer. In 2014, Dr. Swistel received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cancer Research and Treatment Fund for his pioneering work in breast cancer surgery.

Biographical Info

Dr. Swistel graduated from Harvard University and matriculated from the Brown University Alpert School of Medicine. He completed his general surgical residency training at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City and then a two-year surgical oncology fellowship at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Center. He subsequently started the first specialized program in breast cancer surgery at St Luke’s, becoming its first Chief of Breast Surgery and Attending Surgeon. In 1996, he was recruited by New York Hospital to develop a similar specialty program in breast cancer surgery. He coordinated efforts to develop the multi-disciplinary Weill Cornell Breast Center which has brought innovation in breast cancer therapy throughout all the disciplines. Recognizing a need to provide patients with an improved quality of life, he started the Oncoplastic Breast Surgery program combining cancer surgery and plastic reconstructive techniques. He presently holds an endowed chair as the Von Maltzahn Associate Clinical Professor of Oncoplastic Surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine and Associate Attending in the Department of Surgery.

Dr. Swistel has pioneered many improvements in the delivery of breast cancer care for his patients.  He has been on multiple best doctor lists and is listed in both editions of Who’s Who in America and the World. He is widely quoted as an expert in the field by the media.  He first developed an early protocol using laser guided destruction of small breast tumor to minimize surgical scars. In 1991 he performed the first skin sparing mastectomy in New York. That technique did much to minimize the surgical defect related to standard radical mastectomy and the technique was combined with immediate reconstruction.  In 1986, he established the first Comprehensive Breast Center in Manhattan at the St. Luke’s Hospital.  This served as a model for subsequent Breast Centers throughout the city including the Lauder Center at Memorial Sloan-Kettering and the present Weill Cornell Breast Center.  Recognizing that minority population sometimes had difficulty in accessing excellent breast care he received a special grant in 1988 from New York state to focus on screening of minority patients.  This program was adopted by the legislature and continues to this day.  He was one of the first physicians in New York to pioneer sentinel lymph node biopsy, a technique for minimizing axillary surgery. Building on his work on skin sparing mastectomy, he was an early adopter of nipple sparing mastectomy and perfected it by utilizing an infra-mammary incision below the breast resulting in the patient having no visible mastectomy scar. His efforts to provide for an improvement in quality of life for breast cancer survivors allowed him to pioneer the young field of oncoplastic breast surgery, combining plastic surgery and cancer surgery to improve self-image after having to face this potentially devastating diagnosis. He has lectured widely on the topic of breast cancer surgery and prevention strategies and runs a high-risk program at Weill Cornell.  He is past President of the New York Metropolitan Breast Cancer Group, which is the oldest and largest regional group of breast cancer specialists in the United States.

Honors and Awards

Lifetime Achievement Award, 2014 from the Cancer Research and Treatment Fund.

2007-2022 Top Cancer Doctors in America, Castle Connolly

2011-2022 Top Doctors in the Tri-State Area, New York Magazine

2007-2014 Best Doctors in America

Komen Award for Patient Video Presentation of Preparation for Breast Cancer Surgery, 2001, 2002.

Sentinel Lymph Node Mapping, The 13th I. Joseph Aprile Distinguished Lecturer. Catholic Medical Center of Brooklyn and Queens, April 2000.

New York State Grant to Form a Breast Cancer Detection Program, St. Lukes Hospital, 1986.

New York SuperDoctor: an Honor given to 5% of all New York physicians.

Board Certifications
American Board of Surgery
Clinical Expertise
Breast Surgery
Onco-Plastic Surgery
Mastectomies
Breast Cancer
Breast Disease
Sentinel Node Biopsy For Breast
Breast Lumpectomy
Mastectomy Reconstruction
Sentinel Node
Breast Cancer Surgery
Skin Sparing Mastectomy
Nipple Areola Sparing Mastectomy
Minimally Invasive Breast Surgery
Lumpectomy
High Risk Breast Disease
Languages
English
Education 
  • M.D.
    Brown University School of Medicine
    1975
  • B.A.
    Harvard University
    1971
Appointments 
  • Associate Professor of Clinical Surgery
    Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University
  • Associate Attending Surgeon
    NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital
  • Nina G. von Maltzahn Associate Professor of Oncoplastic Breast Surgery
    Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University

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No External Relationships Reported