Many general surgeons devote a significant amount of time and effort to the care of cancer patients. There is currently no standardized, national curriculum in Surgical Oncology for General Surgery residents. The objective of this study was to identify gaps in oncology education among General Surgery residents.
An anonymous survey design was used in the present study. Residents received an invitation to participate along with a link to an online survey. Interested residents selected the link and completed the 10 minute survey. Binomial logistic regression was performed to ascertain the effects of PGY year on various perceptions and knowledge relating to surgical oncology.
The participants included residents from 3 General Surgery residency programs including Florida Atlantic University, The University of Iowa and The University of Connecticut. These are all university-based programs, but residents in each program rotate at several sites each, including both university and community hospitals.
Participants included clinical PGY 1 to 5 categorical general surgical residents, as well as PGY 1 and 2 General Surgery preliminary residents. A total of 135 residents received the email with the link to the survey. Forty-nine residents from all PGY levels responded to the survey.
Twenty-one percent of the respondents were familiar with American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer accreditation, which is a major means of maintaining standards in cancer care across institutions in the United States The majority of residents did not receive formal training in such key areas as chemotherapy and radiation therapy basics, survivorship, palliative care, pain management, and cancer screening regimens. These responses were not significantly different across different levels of training. Most importantly, many residents, particularly those in PGY 3 to 5, do not feel that they will be fully prepared to care for cancer patients at the completion of their training.
The present study provides evidence that regardless of PGY year, residents do not achieve adequate exposure to a variety of cancer-related topics. These include both multidisciplinary cancer care and the operation, accreditation and administration of certified cancer centers. Further, it appears residents do not feel well prepared to provide optimal cancer care at the completion of their training. This data supports the development of a more comprehensive Surgical Oncology curriculum for General Surgery trainees.