Abdominal pain and loss of appetite can be a sign of Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumour (GIST)

We have all occasionally experienced abdominal pains followed by nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite or weight loss. Often, we ignore them because they turn out to be ulcers or acidity. However, sometimes these symptoms, if ignored over a long period, could be fatal. An uncommon yet serious type of cancer that appears in the gastrointestinal tract is Gastrointestinal stromal tumour, also known as GIST.

The growth of aberrant cells that form inside the tissues of the digestive system has an impact on the development of Gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST). This tumour has unique characteristics since it is fundamentally different from more typical tumours like stomach and colon cancer. The development of cells presumed to originate from a particular type of nerve cell found in the walls of the digestive organs is a critical feature that sets GIST apart Typically, the small intestine and stomach are the organs most susceptible to develop gastrointestinal stromal tumours.

The causes of GIST

The precise cause of this cancer is still uncertain because of the GIST’s sporadic growth pattern. The medical community’s understanding of how specific DNA alterations result in the development of abnormal cells that cause GIST has, however, made significant strides.

Little is known about the risk factors that contribute to the disease. The few but significant risk factors for GIST is listed below.

  • Old age: Although GIST can affect people of any age, people under the age of 40 are much less likely to develop it than people over the age of 50, who account for most GIST cases.
  • Genetic mutation runs in families: Those with sporadic GISTs only have cancer cells, in contrast to people who inherited defective genes from one of their parents, who have aberrant genes in all of their cells.
  • Gender: Men account for most of GIST cases, in comparison to women.


  • Mass swelling within the abdomen region
  • Significant weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bowel irritation and problems

Diagnosis and Treatment 

If a patient experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms on a regular basis, it is recommended to visit the nearest doctor for the necessary tests.

The diagnosis of GIST uses several types of tests:

  • CT or CAT scan: The scan is often considered to be the best and most accessible tool that enables the diagnosis of GIST. The interior of the body is depicted in pictures by a CT scan utilising x-rays obtained from various angles. These images are combined by a computer to create a detailed, three-dimensional image that reveals any anomalies or malignancies.
  • MRI scan: MRI is considered very helpful in the process of determining the degree of abdominal cancer among patients with GISTs. MRIs can also be used to check for cancer that has possibly returned or spread, especially in the brain or spine.
  • Endoscopic Ultrasound: The doctor can view the big bowel or stomach interior during an endoscopy. As a result, the GIST’s exact position and size may be identified. It is helpful in determining how far a tumour has encroached on the GI tract wall.

When an individual is diagnosed with GIST, the nature of treatment may vary based on individual cases. Surgery is the most often employed treatment for GIST in situations of little and big-sized tumours. In case the tumour becomes metastatic, targeted medication treatment becomes the more successful form of treatment. The treatment process uses drugs that target specific proteins associated with the growth and division of GIST, as a result, tumour size can be reduced or at least the growth is mitigated.

It is highly critical to visit a doctor at the nearest hospital if one notices any symptoms of Gastrointestinal stromal tumour.

Dr. Sharanabasappa Hatti, Senior Consultant Surgical Oncology, HCG Cancer Center, Kalaburagi.

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