Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) are a type of tumor found in the digestive system. This includes the esophagus, liver, stomach, gallbladder, large and small intestines, rectum, and anus. The digestive organs break down food. The body uses the nutrients and gets rid of the waste. About half of GISTs happen in the stomach. But, they can they can happen anywhere in this system.
GISTs are rare. They are considered as potentially cancerous.
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The cause of GISTs is not well understood.
Many people with GIST have a defect in a certain gene. In people with GIST, the gene is active when it should not be. This allows the cells to grow and divide without order. This may explain why a GIST forms.
GIST is most common in people over 50 years old. Your chances may also be higher if you have:
GISTs may not cause any symptoms until they grow to a certain size. If you have them, GISTs may cause:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. Your answers and a physical exam may point to a GIST.
You may have:
The exam and your test results will help find out the stage of the tumors. Staging guides your treatment. GISTs are staged from 1-4. Stage 1 is very localized. Stage 4 is a spread to other parts of the body.
Treatment will depend on the stage. More than one method may be used:
There is no way to prevent GISTs since the cause is unknown.
American Cancer Society
American College of Gastroenterology
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Canadian Cancer Society
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Last reviewed May 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Daus Mahnke, MD
Last Updated: 8/15/2018