Perception of Oncology Evaluated by Medical Students (P.O.E.M.S)—a Single Institutional Study


Rising incidence of cancer coupled with lack of structured oncology teaching in the undergraduate (UG) medical curriculum could be detrimental by generating unmet needs in the proper care of cancer patients in the future. To determine the orientation amongst undergraduate medical students regarding Oncology as a specialization and future career option, a cross-sectional, single institutional study was conducted amongst 950 undergraduate students by using an online survey over 2 months. The perception of the subject of Oncology as a career option and the opinion regarding the need for inclusion in the undergraduate curriculum were assessed. Students themselves or those with first-degree relatives as cancer survivors were excluded. A total of 317 responses (33.4%) met the inclusion criteria. Majority were MBBS students from semesters 6 to 9. Even though students ranked the future prospect of Oncology 7.5 on 10, only 6% of the respondents actually wanted to pursue it as a career option stating high mortality amongst cancer patients (63.6%) and emotional burnout (49.7%) as the primary limitations. On a brighter note, better job opportunity due to increasing global cancer incidence (61%) and opportunity for research (42.8%) were thought to be the promising features of the specialization. Majority (51.3%) wanted the inclusion of Oncology in the undergraduate curriculum. Due to limited exposure in the undergraduate curriculum, there is a lack of knowledge and interest regarding the scope of Oncology as a future career option. We therefore advocate revision of the undergraduate curriculum to include Oncology.

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Data Availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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All authors contributed equally to the study design and conduct and the preparation of the manuscript.

All the authors declare that they have contributed to the manuscript significantly and that all authors are in agreement with the content of the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Abhishek Basu.

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Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The protocol was submitted and duly approved by the Institutional Ethical Committee. The approval reference number is RKC/2017 dated 15.09.2019. The document shall be made available on request.

Consent to Participate

No intervention was carried out on human subjects during conduct of this study.

This was an online study and the questionnaire clearly mentioned that “By answering this survey you will have given consent for future analysis of your response by the researchers. However, note that all the responses are anonymous and cannot be traced back to the participant”.

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We hereby agree to assign and transfer necessary rights for publication of this manuscript to the Journal. We also declare that the contents of this manuscript have not been published or submitted for publication elsewhere, except as a brief abstract in the proceedings of a scientific meeting—The Annual State Conference of the Association of Radiation Oncologists of India West Bengal chapter (AROI WB) 2020, held at Kolkata, India.

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Roy, P., Basu, A., Samaddar, D. et al. Perception of Oncology Evaluated by Medical Students (P.O.E.M.S)—a Single Institutional Study. J Canc Educ (2020).

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  • Oncology
  • Perception
  • Undergraduate
  • Medical students
  • Cancer
  • Education