Frequently Asked Questions About Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GISTs)

What some of the FAQ’s related to Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GISTs)?

1.    What is the gastrointestinal tract? The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is part of the body’s digestive system made up of: •    Stomach •    Small intestine •    Large intestine (colon)

2.    What is GIST? Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs), which may be cancerous or benign, mostly develop in the stomach and small intestine, but may also be found anywhere in or near the GI tract.

3.    What type of cancer is GIST? •    GIST is a subtype of soft-tissue sarcoma that starts in the nervous system cells in the wall of the GI tract •    Ordinary stomach cancer or colorectal cancer is carcinoma. It is very important to differentiate GIST from these common cancers, as GISTs act differently and need specific medications for treatment.

4.    What are the types of GISTs? •    Adult GIST •    Paediatric GIST •    Wildtype GIST •    Familial GIST •    E-GISTs On the basis of diagnostic test results and other parameters, your doctor will identify the type of GIST and provide right treatment options.

5.    What risk factors may increase the chances of developing GIST? •    The risk of GIST increases in individuals who have inherited mutations/changes in a gene •    Rarely, GIST can also develop if there is a family history of the condition

6.    What symptoms do GIST patients experience? •    Blood in stool or vomit •    Abdominal pain •    Early feeling of fullness •    Fatigue

7.    How is it diagnosed? •    Upper endoscopy •    Laparoscopy •    Ultrasound •    Computed Tomography (CT) scan •    Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) •    Biopsy •    Immunohistochemistry •    Mitotic rate

8.    What is mutation testing? Mutation testing is performed on the cancer cells to detect the exact genetic mutation causing GIST. This helps doctors in understanding how cancer may progress and also in choosing the right treatment.

9.    What are the treatment options? •    Surgery – It is the first option to cure GIST •    Targeted therapy – It is a treatment option that utilizes drugs or other substances and targets only the cancerous cells

10.    What kind of monitoring is required post-treatment? Follow-up tests are done to check if the condition has improved/worsened/recurred. •    Post-surgery: CT scan and watchful waiting •    Post-drug therapy: CT scan, MRI, or PET scans

11.    Are current treatments curative? •    Surgery is the ideal potential option for tumors of low or intermediate risk. However, trials are ongoing to determine if targeted drug therapy could reduce the chances of recurrence if given post-surgery. •    For patients who cannot undergo surgery, targeted therapies may be an option. Though it may not completely cure the condition, it may enable patients to live normal lives for years. However, few may also develop resistance to these medications.

12.    What can be done to cope with the condition? •    Be informed: Learn as much as you can about GIST, its progression, and symptoms •    Verbalize your worries: Seek support and express what you are going through •    Keep a positive attitude: Be positive and get involved in activities that, relieve stress •    Stay healthy: Eat well, exercise a little, and get enough rest

13.    What is the prognosis for someone diagnosed with GIST? The chances of recurrence depend on the size, location, and the speed at which the tumor cells are reproducing. Every patient, even those with low-risk GISTs, should ensure routine follow up to monitor relapse.


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