I was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 28.

In 2014, a few years after I was given the all-clear, I made the decision to become a doctor.

One of my reasons for taking up medicine was to learn more about cancer, and to use that knowledge and my experience to help people with the disease.

Since my own diagnosis five years ago, cancer has struck several members of my family and a number of close friends.

I've just completed two years of a medical degree and will spend the next two years in hospitals and clinics applying what I've learned.

I'll walk into hospitals generally comfortable with cancer and its often compromising and distressing treatment, mainly because of the radiation, chemotherapy and surgery that helped save my life, as well as my subsequent involvement with the cancer community.

But that's more than I can say for my fellow classmates.

Medical students 'uncomfortable' with cancer

It seems many medical students and newly graduated doctors are still uncomfortable with cancer.

An alarming number report they lack the knowledge and skills needed to spot the signs of cancer, or the confidence to chat to people living with cancer.

In a survey of Australian medical graduates published in 2003, 40 per cent reported they had little or no skill in discussing death, one in four didn't have the know-how to spot a melanoma, and more than one third weren't confident doing a pap smear.

If you're thinking that data is a little old — it is. However, there simply is no more recent Australian data measuring the oncology knowledge, skills and attitudes of Australian medical graduates.

Quite simply, we just don't know what our junior doctors know and think about cancer.

But do a little probing in medical universities today, and little seems to have changed.

This is surprising — and deeply concerning — when you look at the scale and impact of the disease.

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