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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 a 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 4 consecutive 30-minute sessions. It is held once per year in Philadelphia.
  • 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 an ACGME-accredited program in complex general surgical oncology.

About the Certificate

  • The ABS offers a certificate in complex general surgical oncology (CGSO) to candidates who seek a credential that demonstrates that they have met standards in training in advanced management of surgical oncologic disorders, who demonstrate leadership abilities in multidisciplinary management of cancer, who have the experience and training to participate in multidisciplinary trials, and who intend to focus their practice on surgical oncology. The ABS has offered this certificate since 2011. 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.

7-Year Limit for Certification

Surgeons who complete a surgical oncology fellowship during the 2018-2019 academic year or thereafter will have 7 years to achieve certification. The Qualifying Examination and the Certifying Examination are each offered once per year.

  • QE: Applicants who apply immediately after fellowship will receive up to 4 opportunities within 4 years to pass the QE. Each year and/or each exam counts as an attempt. Skipping or delaying the exam for a year for any reason will count against the remaining opportunities.
  • CE: Upon successful completion of the QE, applicants will be offered up to 3 opportunities within 3 years to pass the CE. The three CE opportunities begin immediately upon successful completion of the QE. Skipping or delaying the exam for a year for any reason will count against the remaining opportunities.
  • Primary certification in Surgery is a requirement for certification in Complex General Surgical Oncology, and is part of the application process. Delays in completing initial certification in surgery will delay the CGSO application, and therefore diminish the number of available attempts to take the CGSO exam. It is highly recommended that you attain certification in Surgery BEFORE the end of your CGSO fellowship.
  • Eligibility expires 7 years after the end of fellowship. To regain eligibility, you will be required to pursue a readmissibility pathway to re-enter the certification process in CGSO. See our exam admissibility policy for further details.

Issue of Grandfathering

  • After much deliberation, the Complex General Surgical Oncology Board of the ABS and the Society for Surgical Oncology jointly decided against retroactive eligibility for the exam process. Certification in CGSO is open only to individuals who complete an ACGME-accredited fellowship.

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