Information, risk factors, symptoms, and treatment
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is a major part of the digestive system. Tumors that form in the walls of the GI tract are called gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs). Though GISTs often indicate cancer, they are not always cancerous (malignant). Some are non-cancerous (benign) and are unlikely to spread in the body.
Risk factors for gastrointestinal tumors
Certain people are at high risk for GISTs. These include:
- Age: People more than 50 years old.
- Family members: GISTs are often hereditary – passed down in families.
- Genetics: Some rare genetic syndromes increase the risk, such as neurofibromatosis type 1. Genetic mutations – changes in the DNA – are the most common cause of GISTs.
- Sex: Men develop GISTs at a higher rate than women.
Symptoms of gastrointestinal tumors
GISTs can be smaller than the head of a pencil eraser, making them difficult to detect. They also may not cause any symptoms. However, if you experience any of these symptoms, see a doctor to diagnose your condition:
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in stool
- Bowel obstruction
- Lump or mass in the abdomen
- Nausea or vomiting, particularly vomiting blood
Treatment of gastrointestinal tumors
We recommend GIST treatment based on the size, stage, and location of the tumor. Treatment may include a combination of these options:
- Ablation: We use radiofrequency, extreme cold, or microwave technology to shrink and destroy tumors.
- Chemotherapy: We use medications that target and prevent the growth of cancer cells.
- Imatinib: This drug blocks the growth of tumors by cutting off the supply of proteins called kinases.
- Radiation: Our radiation oncology specialists use targeted radiation treatment to shrink the tumor.
- Surgery: We’ll remove your tumor and some tissue surrounding it. Surgery alone often can cure small tumors.
- Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, or HIPEC: This treatment can be an effective option for certain cancers that spread to the lining of your abdomen. HIPEC involves administering a heated chemotherapy after cytoreductive cancer (tumor-removing) surgery.
We may recommend combined treatments to shrink the size of your tumor and make it resectable – able to be removed with surgery. We also offer minimally invasive procedures for people who have been told they are not good candidates for traditional open surgery.