Gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs) are rare tumours involving the digestive tract and account for about 1% of primary gastrointestinal cancers. They occur predominantly in middle-age or older age groups, and are extremely rare in individuals under 30 years of age. The most common tumour locations are the:
These tumours arise from within the walls of the digestive tract, unlike the more common types of digestive cancers such as stomach or colon cancer which arise from the glandular cells in the inner lining. GISTs have varying malignant potential and are treated differently.
The majority of GIST cases are asymptomatic and are discovered either during an endoscopy or from a computed tomography (CT) scan. For cases that are symptomatic, the symptoms vary depending on their location and size. The main symptoms that one may present with are:
Depending on the symptoms (e.g. gastrointestinal bleeding or an abdominal mass), your doctor may use any of the following procedures to assess and diagnose a GIST tumour.
Your doctor may also order other investigations if deemed appropriate.
Treatment for GISTs depends on their size and symptoms. The recommended treatment for symptomatic GISTs or GISTS larger than 2cm is removal with surgery. This can be done via minimally invasive means such as laparoscopy (key-hole) surgery.
In large tumours or those that involve other organs, an immunotherapy drug may be given prior to surgery to ‘shrink’ the tumour, and reduce the need to remove more tissue than necessary.
For asymptomatic GISTs less than 2cm in size, an option of regular surveillance may also be considered.
Our team of doctors will discuss the potential risks and effectiveness of each investigative procedure and the available treatment options with you.
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