GISTs (gastrointestinal stromal tumours) seem to be on the rise in the Indian population. Keep reading to know about its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
What is a GIST?
Are GISTs cancerous?
Is GIST a type of stomach cancer?
What causes GIST?
Am I at risk for developing a GIST?
Most cases develop spontaneously, without a clear reason. However, you can be at a risk for developing them if you have someone in your family suffering from-
- Familial GIST syndrome
- Neurofibromatosis type 1
- Carney-Stratakis syndrome
How can I lower my risk of getting GIST?
What are some of the symptoms of GIST?
Initially, you may not experience any symptoms. As the disease progresses, you may notice –
- Blood in the vomit or stools
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Feeling full despite eating less or not feeling hungry at all
How is GIST diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms in detail and also examine you physically. They can recommend the following tests for confirming the diagnosis and staging the disease –
- Imaging: Your doctor can advise you to get an ultrasound, CT scan, MRI scan or a PET scan
- Upper endoscopy: A long thin tube with an attached camera is inserted through your mouth to look at the insides of your GIT
- Biopsy: Your doctor will take a small piece of the tumour and perform various tests to get detailed information about the tumour
Why does my doctor want me to undergo genetic testing?
How is GIST treated?
Not all tumours need to be immediately treated. In case of small tumours, your doctor may recommend you to wait and watch. In other cases, your doctor will discuss these treatment options with you –
- Surgery – Your doctor can advise surgery if the tumour has not spread to other parts. The main goal is to get rid of the entire tumour.
- Targeted therapy – Standard chemotherapy is not very effective. In targeted therapy, the drugs specifically attack the cancer cells while leaving the normal cells unharmed. TKIs (tyrosine kinase inhibitors) are specifically used for treatment. They inhibit a specific protein called tyrosine kinase in the cancer cells.
What are the side effects of targeted therapy?
You may experience –
- Nausea and vomiting
- Constipation or diarrhoea
- Decreased blood counts
- Muscle cramps
- Skin and hair colour changes
What should I do post-treatment?
After treatment, you will be required to regularly follow up and watch out for any changes or recurrence.
- In case of post-surgery, you may have to undergo a CT scan and look out for any symptoms
- In case of post-targeted therapy, your doctor will advise you to get a CT, MRI, or PET scans
Are these treatments curative?
How can I cope with a GIST?
It can be scary and overwhelming to get an unfavourable diagnosis. You can use the following strategies to cope –
- Learning as much as you can about the disease, how it progresses, its symptoms and management
- Reaching out to your loved ones for support
- Keeping a positive attitude
- Staying healthy by eating a balanced diet, regularly exercising and getting enough sleeping