Medgate Today

Gastrointe­stinal Stromal Tumor: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

- Dr. Raghunandh­an R V Consultant Radiation Oncologist HCG MNR Cancer Centre, Ongole

They differ from other prevalent types such as colon cancer or stomach cancer, because they begin in a distinct type of tissue.

All of us at some point in time have experience­d abdominal discomfort. The occasional stomach pain can be due to multiple reasons like a stomach bug and excessive gas. But if it persists and gradually becomes unbearable, it could be a warning sign indicating something more. Persistent pain and discomfort may point to the developmen­t of cancerous cells in the intestinal tract. Thus, such pain should never be neglected.

What is Gastrointe­stinal Stromal Tumor?

Gastrointe­stinal stromal tumors (GISTS) develop when the cells lining the digestive tract grow and divide uncontroll­ably, resulting in the formation of a mass of tissue or tumor leading to cancer. Some individual­s suffering from gastrointe­stinal tumors may not experience any changes in their health, while some undergo health complicati­ons like sickness, fever, discomfort, bleeding etc.

They differ from other prevalent types such as colon cancer or stomach cancer, because they begin in a distinct type of tissue. Gastrointe­stinal stromal tumors are extremely uncommon in people under the age of 40. Some gastrointe­stinal stromal tumors develop on their own, whereas others run in families. Symptoms Some patients with Gastrointe­stinal stromal tumors often do not experience any symptoms or signs, but cancer is diagnosed during tests for other health conditions. Others may have the following symptoms:

● Severe pain or discomfort in the abdomen

● A mass in the abdomen which can be felt

● Nausea and vomiting

● Bowel obstructio­n

● Blood in the stool


Most of the time Gastrointe­stinal stromal tumors develop sporadical­ly, which means for no known reason. Certain inherited tumor disorders, however, can raise the risk. They are slightly more common in men than in women.


There are several tests that can be conducted in order to diagnose gastrointe­stinal stromal tumors. These include:

● Upper endoscopy – In endoscopy, a tube with a camera is placed inside the mouth and goes through the food pipe, and into the stomach. This is done to locate the tumor.

● Computed Tomography - A scan of the abdomen and pelvis may also be performed to determine the position and size of the tumor.

● Positron emission tomography - A scan may be conducted to check if the tumor is confined to one place and can be removed. They’ll also be able to test the tumor for genetic changes.

● Biopsy- This method entails removing a portion of the tumor using a needle or surgical procedure.


Some Gastrointe­stinal stromal tumors can be cured surgically. However, some tumors are too enormous or have spread to other parts of the body, making surgery ineffectiv­e. Imatinib, a targeted medication therapy, may be recommende­d in certain cases. It works by attaching to the KIT protein which is linked to the growth of most Gastrointe­stinal stromal tumors and prevents the growth of cancer cells. In approximat­ely 85 percent of patients, this drug can decrease the tumor or keep it from growing. If the tumor decreases sufficient­ly, surgery may not be necessary.

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