Purpose This review summarizes the rationale for the creation of breast centres and discusses the studies conducted in Germany to obtain proof of principle for a voluntary, external benchmarking programme and proof of concept for third-party dual certification of breast centres and their mandatory quality management systems to the German Cancer Society (DKG) and German Society of Senology (DGS) Requirements of Breast Centres and ISO 9001 or similar. In addition, we report the most recent data on benchmarking and certification of breast centres in Germany. Methods Review and summary of pertinent publications. Literature searches to identify additional relevant studies. Updates from the DKG/DGS programmes. Results and conclusions Improvements in surrogate parameters as represented by structural and process quality indicators suggest that outcome quality is improving. The voluntary benchmarking programme has gained wide acceptance among DKG/DGS-certified breast centres. This is evidenced by early results from one of the largest studies in multidisciplinary cancer services research, initiated by the DKG and DGS to implement certified breast centres. The goal of establishing a nationwide network of certified breast centres in Germany can be considered largely achieved. Nonetheless the network still needs to be improved, and there is potential for optimization along the chain of care from mammography screening, interventional diagnosis and treatment through to follow-up. Specialization, guideline-concordant procedures as well as certification and recertification of breast centres remain essential to achieve further improvements in quality of breast cancer care and to stabilize and enhance the nationwide provision of high-quality breast cancer care.