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Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) are a rare type of tumor that forms in the digestive system, typically in the stomach or small intestine. The exact cause of these tumors is unknown, but there may be a genetic link. As with many types of tumors, the symptoms of a GIST depend on its size, its location, and other factors. The most common symptoms are bloody stools, abdominal pain, bowel obstruction, difficulty swallowing, and nausea.

About 4,000 to 60,000 people are diagnosed with this type of tumor each year in the United States. While GISTs are serious and should be found and treated early, not all of them develop into cancer. Some are benign, or noncancerous, and don’t spread to other parts of the body. Your healthcare team will conduct a series of tests to determine if the GIST is indeed cancerous.

If the GIST is cancerous, your doctor will stage the tumor. This allows them to find the best treatment plan for you. Treatment ranges from surgically removing the whole tumor and surrounding tissues to receiving targeted therapy. If the tumor can’t be surgically removed, your doctor may prescribe a drug called a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI).

Whether you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a GIST or are experiencing early symptoms of one, these articles will guide you through the causes, diagnosis, treatment approaches, and more.