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GIST Tumors

< Digestive Tract Cancer

GIST Tumors

About GIST Tumors

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) may be malignant (cancer) or benign (not cancer). They are most common in the stomach and small intestine but may be found anywhere in or near the GI tract. Some scientists believe that GISTs begin in cells called interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC), in the wall of the GI tract.

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is part of the body’s digestive system. It helps to digest food and takes nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins and water) from food so they can be used by the body. The GI tract is made up of the stomach, small intestine and large intestine (colon). 


These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by a GIST or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Blood (either bright red or very dark) in the stool or vomit
  • Feeling full after only a little food is eaten
  • Feeling very tired
  • Pain in the abdomen, which may be severe
  • Trouble or pain when swallowing

Risk Factors

The genes in cells carry the hereditary information received from a person’s parents. The risk of GIST is increased in people who have inherited a mutation (change) in a certain gene. In rare cases, GISTs can be found in several members of the same family.

GIST may be part of a genetic syndrome, but this is rare. A genetic syndrome is a set of symptoms or conditions that occur together and is usually caused by abnormal genes. The following genetic syndromes have been linked to GIST:

  • Carney triad
  • Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1)