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Home > Cancers Treated > Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors

Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GISTs)

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While they can occur anywhere in this system, the majority of GISTs start in the stomach. Not all GISTs are cancerous.

What are GISTs?

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors, or GISTs, are rare tumors that occur in the GI tract—specifically, in special cells that line the tract.

Who develops GISTs?

Risk factors increase that increase the risk for GISTs include:

  • advancing age (between ages 50 and 80)
  • genetics (in rare cases, a gene mutation may be to blame; such is the case with familial gastrointestinal stromal tumor syndrome, von Recklinghausen disease and Carney-Stratakis syndrome)

What are the symptoms of GISTs?

Most often, a GIST is discovered as a result of bleeding in the GI tract, which can lead to symptoms such as dark, tarry stools; bloody vomit; and fatigue stemming from anemia. Other symptoms include:

  • a feeling of fullness no matter how little you eat
  • abdominal pain and/or swelling
  • intestinal blockage
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • swallowing difficulties
  • unintentional weight loss

How are GISTs diagnosed?

In addition to a physical exam and thorough medical history, your physician may recommend blood tests, imaging tests (including X-rays; computed tomography [CT] or magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] or positron emission tomography [PET] scans, endoscopy and ultrasound) and a biopsy (removal of tissue for further testing).

How are GISTs treated?

Your physician will make treatment recommendations based on the nature (size, location, etc.) of your tumor. Common treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and targeted therapy (drugs such as imatinib).

Valley Hospital is proud to offer the latest treatment options for gastrointestinal stromal tumors, including minimally invasive surgery through its Institute for Robotic and Minimally Invasive Surgery. For more information, call 201-447-8012.

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