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All you want to know about Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST)​

Cancer is a feeling that nobody wants to encounter. It is probably the word that nobody wants in their dictionary of life. But reality is inevitable and pretending its non-existence is something that is not recommended.

If you or any of your family members have been diagnosed with GIST lately, if you are looking for a legit source of information about the tumor, then you are at the right place. Read along to understand the facts behind it.

All you want to know about Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumour (GIST)

Cancer in simpler terms is an abnormal and uncoordinated growth of cells with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body. Broadly they are of two types – Carcinoma and Sarcoma. Carcinoma develops in the lining of the internal body structures like stomach or skin etc whereas Sarcoma develops in the connective or supportive tissues of the body like Bone, Muscle, or Fat.

GIST tumor is relatively different and belongs to Sarcomas. It is an uncommon type of cancer that starts in the digestive tract, also known as the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This is the path inside our body that food passes through. Most GIST can start anywhere in the stomach or small intestine, but they can also start in the oesophagus (the tube that connects the throat to the stomach), colon, rectum, or other places.

The cells that help in the movement of the food in the GI tract, starts growing abnormally which is uncontrolled and sometimes spreads to other parts of the body and grows there like Liver. This is known as metastasis of the tumor.

Symptoms of the tumor

Genetic factors may lead to an increase in the risk of GIST. Most of the GIST tumors do not present with symptoms right away. They are diagnosed at the time of other routine check-ups.

However it might cause few noticeable symptoms like:-

If you suspect or observe any such symptoms or discomfort, it is advisable to consult an Oncologist and Gastroenterologist to rule it out. Your consultant most likely would like to subject you through some tests.

Prevalence

GIST tumor is common in the age group of 50-70 years and it is relatively uncommon in the age group below 40 years. Although it can develop in people of all ages. It is a rare inherited disease.

Here are some of the tests that you might need:-

  • History and Physical Exam
    History plays a major role in the diagnosis of a disease. It helps to assess patient’s health, past illnesses, and treatment. This is followed by a general body examination to check for unusual signs and symptoms in the body.

  • CT scan or CAT scan
    CT scan is helpful to figure out the site, size, and shape of the tumor in your GI tract or in the intestine. This might also rule out in case the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

  • MRI Scan
    In order to get a clear and distinct image of the tumor and to analyze the minute details of the tumor, MRI scan is recommended. In addition to that, it also confirms the findings of the CT scan and makes it easier to visualize the tumor.
  • PET Scan
    A PET scan produces 3D images for accurate diagnosis and is used to detect early signs of Cancer or other diseases. A special type of material is injected into the body which is visualized as hot spots in the camera if there are signs of Cancer. It also helps us to map the spread of Cancer to other parts of the body.
  • Endoscopy and Ultrasound
    An endoscope is an instrument with a Lens that is inserted through the mouth into the oesophagus and way down the GI tract. Ultrasound uses sound waves to form an image of the inside of the body. The probe at the end of the endoscope helps to take the pictures. This test shows how far a GIST tumor has grown into the wall of the GI tract.
  • Biopsy
    During a biopsy, a small piece of the abnormal area is cut out to check for cancer cells. It can be done during endoscopy or surgery or sometimes a thin hollow needle is used to get the sample, which is dependent on the size and site of the tumor.

It is common to find very small GIST. Often doctors seem to disagree in their opinions in such cases whether to remove the tumor or let it grow.

Now that we have ruled out cancer, let us move on to the factors affecting the chances of recovery and the treatment:-

Treatment

For different types of tumors, it is important to rule out the stage in which the tumor is in the body which depends upon the spread of the tumor. But it doesn’t work the same way for GIST. Its treatment is based on whether the tumor can be removed by surgery.

Some GIST can be completely removed, some cannot be removed completely, and some tumors can recur even after the treatment. And some tumors do not get better even with the treatment.

Four types of standard treatments are used for GIST.

  • Surgery
    If the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body and is in its place, then surgery is the treatment to remove the tumor and the tissue around the tumor.

  • Targeted therapy
    It uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells. It is less harmful than Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy. They can be used to shrink the tumor so that it can be easily removed by surgery.

  • Wait and Watch
    Close monitoring of the patient’s signs and symptoms to look for any changes without any treatment over time.
  • Supportive Care
    This type of care is given to patients who get worse during the treatment or are facing any side effects. The role of supportive care is to either prevent or treat the symptoms of the disease, side effects psychological, social, or other problems associated with the disease. It helps in improving the quality of life significantly. Sometimes to relieve the pain, in case the tumor has spread, Radiation therapy is given to the patients.

So, these were some of the insights about GIST tumors. For more information visit our hospital and get yourself examined too because the diagnosis has a better prognosis.

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