What are Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumours?
Gastrointestinal stromal tumours are tumours that develop in the digestive tract and carry the potential of becoming cancerous.
Also known as GIST, this is also a rare type of tumour. However, when they develop, they often grow in an adult human’s stomach and small intestine.
Symptoms of gastrointestinal stromal tumours
Not every person who suffers from gastrointestinal stromal tumours experiences its symptoms. For those who don’t, a GIST tumour is usually discovered when they are undergoing a diagnosis or surgery for some other condition.
On the other hand, those who do experience GIST tumour symptoms can feel the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Reduced appetite
- Constant fatigue
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss
- Blood in the stool
- Obstruction in bowel movements
- Trouble swallowing
- A growth or mass in the abdomen
Causes of gastrointestinal stromal tumours
To maintain the healthy functioning of the body, each cell within it goes through a natural cycle of growth, division, and death. Unfortunately, this process can sometimes spiral out of hand.
When cells are supposed to be dying, they continue to grow and divide. Eventually, GISTs can form when the cells on the digestive tract lining keep multiplying erratically.
Besides this, some risk factors like the ones mentioned below can place individuals at risk of developing cancerous gastrointestinal stromal tumours:
- Age (older than 40 years)
- Family history of GIST
- Neurofibromatosis type 1
- Carney-Stratakis syndrome
- Mutations in KIT oncogene
Diagnosis of gastrointestinal stromal tumours
Our doctors will ask patients about their health history and symptoms besides carrying out a blood test. Other than this, we will conduct the following tests to check for gastrointestinal stromal tumours:
- Upper endoscopy: In this test, we insert a camera-attached thin tube into the stomach by first inserting it into the patient’s mouth and then the oesophagus. This test helps us find the location of the gastrointestinal stromal tumour and obtain a biopsy of the GIST.
- Imaging tests: We conduct tests like CT, MRI, and PET (positron emission tomography) scans to determine where the GIST is located, along with its size.
- Endoscopic ultrasound: In this test, the endoscope has an ultrasound probe attached to its tip. The test employs sound waves to create pictures of the GIST tumour.
- Fine-needle biopsy: In this test, a needle is attached to the tip of the endoscope.
The needle takes a sample of the tumour’s tissue, which is later tested in a lab to check if the gastrointestinal stromal tumour is cancerous or not and if so, to determine which stage of cancer out of the following:
- Stage 1: The size of the GIST is small and restricted to a specific region in the digestive tract.
- Stage 2: The size of the GIST has grown larger.
- Stage 3: The GIST has spread to nearby lymph nodes and tissues.
- Stage 4: The GIST has spread to distant parts of the digestive tract.
Treatment of gastrointestinal stromal tumours
GIST treatment depends on the size, stage, and severity level.
If the gastrointestinal stromal tumour is small in size and not cancerous, the patient will not require any treatment. However, if it is cancerous, they will need to undergo treatments like:
In case the GIST has not spread yet, we will perform minimally invasive surgery to remove all the gastrointestinal stromal tumours.
However, in case the GISTs are large and have spread to other parts of the digestive tract, patients will need to undergo targeted drug therapy to reduce the tumour’s size before surgery.
Targeted drug therapy
When GISTs are large, targeted drug therapy focuses on destroying an enzyme known as tyrosine kinase, which aids in the growth of cancer cells.
It does this by using drugs (commonly imatinib) to block and diminish the production of tyrosine kinase.
Besides this, targeted drug therapy is also administered for the following reasons:
- To reduce the risk of cancer after surgery.
- In case the gastrointestinal stromal tumour recurs.
GIST or gastrointestinal stromal tumours are totally cancerous tumours of the digestive tract. In some patients, GIST can result in symptoms like blood in the stool, abdominal pain, reduced appetite, etc., thus making consulting a doctor or a team of specialists necessary.
At the CK Birla Hospital, our team of oncologists works toward delivering accurate and timely diagnosis and customised GIST tumour treatment. They have comprehensive surgical experience in oncology, are internationally recognised, and follow a multi-disciplinary, integrated and patient-centric approach.
In addition, our oncologists understand the emotional burden felt by patients suffering from GIST have to bear. Which is why they specialise in providing compassionate counselling backed healthcare services, that help patients make an informed decision regarding their body. In this regard, our facilities are equipped with a chemo day-care lounge.
We highly recommend patients to avail of diagnostic tests followed by treatment for gastrointestinal stromal tumours by visiting the nearest CK Birla Hospital or booking an appointment with Dr (Prof.) Amit Javed.