Gastrointestinal Tumors

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
  • Fatigue
  • Lump or mass in the abdomen
  • Nausea or vomiting, particularly vomiting blood

HIPEC: Treating metastatic cancers

Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) is heated chemotherapy that is administered after tumor-removing surgery to treat cancers that spread to the lining of the abdomen.

Learn More

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.



Connect with our Cancer Team 24/7

Call us at (888) 777-4167

Show Me

Head and Neck Cancer Support Group

A survivorship and support meeting for current patients, caregivers, and survivors of head and neck cancer. This group is facilitated by a licensed...

View All Classes & Events
View All News

Schedule Appointment Online

If you are having an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. Please do not utilize this scheduling feature for urgent medical situations.

For your safety please select a MyChart Video Visit on Demand or call our MyCare Advice Line at 844-262-1949 before scheduling if: You currently have a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, you are experiencing a new loss of taste and/or sense of smell, in the past 21 days, you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, in the past 14 days, you have had contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19. Or, you have experienced two or more of the following symptoms in the last 3 days: fever, chills, drenching sweats, new cough, shortness of breath, body aches, headache, sore throat, runny nose or nasal congestion, or nausea/vomiting/diarrhea.

Henry Ford Health System is committed to ensuring our Deaf or hard-of-hearing patients and visitors have equal access to all services. We provide the appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including qualified sign language interpreters, TTYs and other assistive listening devices, at no cost. To request assistance, call 313-916-1896 or email CommunicationAccess@hfhs.org.

Schedule Appointment for