Gynecologic Oncologist Education and Training

A Gynecologic oncologist is an obstetrician/gynecologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of women with cancer of the reproductive organs.

Specifically, the gynecologic oncologist treats cancer of the ovary, endometrium, uterus, cervix, vagina, vulva and trophoblastic disease. In order to become a gynecologic oncologist in the United States, a physician must first complete an approved, 4-year residency program in obstetrics and gynecology. Following this, he/she must complete a 2–4 year clinical fellowship in gynecologic oncology. Presently, there are 32 fellowship training programs approved by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Inc (ABOG). The additional training during fellowship provides the skills needed for optimal care of women with a gynecologic cancer.

Surgical skills that are provided during fellowship include: radical pelvic surgery, gastrointestinal surgery, and urologic surgery. Additionally, fellowship provides training in administration of intravenous, intraperitoneal and oral chemotherapy and the placement of brachytherapy devices for radiotherapy. Formal coursework is required in graduate-level statistics and another area of the trainees choosing. After satisfactorily completing the fellowship, the gynecologic oncologist may practice his/her specialty. This leads to "board certification" by ABOG. This involves a written and an oral examination.

According to the ABOG. "Bulletin for 1994-1995" the formal definition of a gynecologic oncologist is:

    "A gynecologic oncologist is a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology who by virtue of education and training is prepared to provide consultation on and comprehensive management of patients with gynecologic cancer and whose present activity includes the practice of gynecologic oncology in an institutional setting wherein all the effective forms of cancer therapy are available. Comprehensive management should include those diagnostic and therapeutic procedures necessary for the total care of the patent with gynecologic cancer or complications resulting therefrom."

This definition is comprehensive and accurate. It brings out some important points:

  1. A gynecologic oncologist is a specialized obstetrician/gynecologist. Therefore, gynecologic oncologists have had extensive training in providing care for women with and without cancer.
  2. Gynecologic oncologists are trained in providing comprehensive, multi-disciplinary care. Gynecologic oncologists are unique among surgical oncologists in this regard. They are skilled surgical oncologists who also are trained in administering chemotherapy. Therefore, gynecologic oncologist is able to provide an outstanding degree of continuity of care for their patients. For example, if a patient is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, a gynecologic oncologist can perform a staging laparotomy to surgically remove and determine the extent of the tumor. Following the surgery, he/she can review the pathological diagnosis and determine if additional treatment is required. If chemotherapy is indicated, the same gynecologic oncologist is capable of administering treatment. This allows the patient to form a long-term, meaningful relationship with her physician.
  3. The gynecologic oncologist is prepared to provide important supportive services such as: pain management, management of medical or surgical complications from treatment, complications of the cancer, and hospice referral. Again, this benefits the patient.

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Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 01 May 2002

Last Modified: 16 Dec 2014