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Cancer Center

Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GISTS)
Digestive cancers
Definition

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) usually begin in cells that are found in the walls along the gastrointestinal tract. These tumors can be malignant or benign.

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Symptoms

GISTs usually affect adults. The causes of GISTs are not known. Symptoms may not appear in the early stages, but may appear as the tumor grows. Common symptoms of GISTs are:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bleeding into the intestinal tract that may cause dark stools
  • Bleeding into the stomach that may cause the patient to vomit blood
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feelings of nausea
  • Exhaustion

Currently, there are very few known risk factors for GISTs. In some instances, they have occurred in members of the same family, although most GIST cases are not inherited.

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Treatment

A doctor will perform a physical examination, review symptoms with the patient and perform testing to determine the presence of GISTs. A valuable test for identifying tumors is P.E.T./CT, which produces images of the anatomy while looking at chemical and physiological changes in the body. Other tests used to identify GISTs are:

If initial testing indicated the presence of GISTS, treatment may include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery

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