GIST Tumour (Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumour) Treatment

What is a GIST Tumour (Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumour)?

A Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumour (GIST Tumour) is a tumour that can occur anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract, but are most commonly found in the stomach or small intestine. GISTs form in nerve cells (that are part of the autonomic nervous system, controlling digestive processes such as movement of food) within the digestive system.

GISTs can grow slowly over time, without causing any signs or symptoms, others can grow and spread very quickly. They can develop at any age, but are most common in people aged 50 to 70.

GIST Tumour - symptoms

GISTs vary in their size, growth and location, therefore symptoms of GISTs can vary from person to person. Some small GISTs may cause no symptoms at all, and those that grow slowly may have no serious effects. Larger GISTs typically cause signs and symptoms such as:

  • Vomiting blood
  • Passing blood in stools
  • Abdominal pain
  • A growth on the abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Anaemia
  • Difficulty swallowing

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms you should seek medical attention from your doctor.

GIST Tumour - diagnosis

If your doctor suspects you may have GISTs following a physical exam (checking for a growth in the abdomen) and a series of tests, you will likely be referred to a specialist who will perform the some or all of the following diagnostic tests:

  • CT Scan
  • Endoscopy
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • Fine-needle aspiration biopsy

GIST Tumour Treatment & Surgery

Not all GISTs require treatment or surgery. Some GISTs are small, slow growing and symptomless, often only discovered during tests or treatment for another condition. Often these types of GISTs may be dealt with by the ‘watch and wait’ approach. However, for larger or symptomatic GISTs, treatment is required. Sometimes removal of GIST tumours can be performed with minimally invasive surgery (robotically or laparoscopically). Depending on the size and location of the GIST, sometimes only a wedge of stomach (wedge gastrectomy) needs to be removed, but other times a more formal removal of part or all of the stomach may be required (partial or total gastrectomy).

Surgical treatment of GISTs is based on how the tumour presented:

  • Resectable – can be removed surgically.
  • Unresectable – cannot be completely removed surgically.
  • Metastatic – tumours that have spread to other parts of the body.
  • Recurrent – tumours that have recurred (come back) following previous treatment.
  • Refractory – have not improved with treatment.

Once diagnosed, your doctor will discuss the best treatment options for your GIST.

If you would like to make an appointment to discuss GISTs and treatment, please call our practice on (03) 9509 4811 or you can book an appointment online

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