Becoming certified in surgical oncology

Complex General Surgical Oncology

Exams Offered

Use the links below to learn more about the following examinations in complex general surgical oncology (CGSO):

  • Successful completion of the CGSO Qualifying and Certifying Exams is required for board certification in complex general surgical oncology. The Qualifying Exam is an 5-hour, multiple-choice examination held once per year on a single day at computer-testing centers across the U.S. The Certifying Exam is an oral exam consisting of, as of 2019, 4 consecutive 30-minute sessions. It is held once per year in a major U.S. city.
  • Applicants for certification in complex general surgical oncology must be currently certified by the ABS in general surgery, in addition to completing the required training in complex general surgical oncology.

About the Certificate

  • The ABS received approval in 2011 to offer a new subspecialty certificate in complex general surgical oncology (CGSO). The certificate was established to assess qualifications for the treatment of complex cases typically seen in cancer centers and specialized institutions, while recognizing that the vast majority of surgical oncology cases are, and will continue to be, treated by general surgeons practicing in the community.

Issue of Grandfathering

  • After much deliberation, the Surgical Oncology Board of the ABS and the Society for Surgical Oncology jointly decided against grandfathering for the new certificate as it would be extremely difficult to establish a fair basis for restricting eligibility to a certain group of individuals. Arbitrarily selecting individuals who completed surgical oncology fellowships in the last five years vs. last ten years or some other length of time could not be defended.
  • It was felt to be equally difficult and arbitrary to grandfather general surgeons whose practice was focused in this area, since nearly all general surgeons perform some degree of oncologic surgery. Thus it was felt that the only valid and defensible manner in which to institute the certificate was to offer it only to individuals who complete an accredited fellowship.