Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) start in special cells in the wall of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, also known as the digestive tract. GISTs are uncommon tumors of the GI tract.
More than half of GISTs start in the stomach. Most of the others start in the small intestine, but GISTs can start anywhere along the GI tract. A small number of GISTs start outside the GI tract in nearby areas such as the omentum (an apron-like layer of fatty tissue that hangs over the organs in the abdomen) or the peritoneum (the layer of tissue that lines the organs and walls of the abdomen).
GISTs are different from these other GI tract cancers. They start in different types of cells, need different types of treatment, and have a different prognosis (outlook). This is why doctors need to figure out whether a person with a tumor in the GI tract has a GIST, some other type of cancer, or a non-cancerous condition.
Unknown. Most people who have a GIST don’t have a family history of the condition. But there are very rare cases where several family members have been diagnosed with a GIST.
People with a condition called neurofibromatosis (NF) have a slightly increased risk of developing a GIST.
The symptoms will depend on the size of the GIST and the location in the digestive tract.
Symptoms may include:
- tummy (abdominal) discomfort or pain
- blood in the stools (bowel motions) or vomit
- anaemia (low level of red blood cells)
- a painless lump in the abdomen
- being sick (vomiting)
- fatigue (tiredness and a feeling of weakness)
- a high temperature (fever) and sweating at night
- weight loss.
Screening & Diagnosis:
Early detection is key in any cancer treatment including GISTs. Investigations such as Ultrasound Scan, Endoscopy and Fecal Immunochemical test (FIT) are used in detecting abnormalities along the GI tract. Contact us at Lakeshore Cancer Center for your FIT test.
Surgery to remove the cancer is usually the main treatment for GIST. Growth inhibitors treatment may also be used to treat GISTs. Growth inhibitors stop cancer cells from growing by blocking signals. They are a drug treatment that’s taken as a tablet.
Research into treatments for GIST is ongoing and advances are being made. Cancer doctors use clinical trials to assess new treatments.
References Cancer.org, macmillan.org.uk