People with a gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) often do not experience any specific symptoms or signs. When symptoms do occur, they may be vague. Signs and symptoms that may occur with a GIST include the following:
- Pain or discomfort in the abdomen
- A mass in the abdomen that you can feel with your hand
- Bowel obstruction
- Nausea and vomiting
- Vomiting blood
- Blood in the stool
- Fatigue due to anemia is often caused by bleeding in the GI tract
The majority of GISTs develop sporadically, which means for no known reason.
Doctors are rarely able to find a specific risk factor for patients diagnosed with a GIST, other than the hereditary syndromes mentioned below. However, the following factors may raise a person’s risk for developing a GIST1,2:
- Age: A GIST most often occurs in people older than 50.
- Gender: GIST occurs slightly more in men than in women.
- Family history: Having a family member with a GIST usually does not increase your risk of developing the disease.
- Hereditary syndromes that can increase the risk of a GIST include neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) and Carney-Stratakis dyad.
Because no non-hereditary, preventable risk factors have been found, there is no good way to prevent a GIST from occurring.
1 Nowain A, Bhakta H, Pais S, et al.: Gastrointestinal stromal tumors: clinical profile, pathogenesis, treatment strategies and prognosis. J Gastroenterol Hepatol 20 (6): 818-24, 2005.
2 DeMatteo RP, Lewis JJ, Leung D, et al.: Two hundred gastrointestinal stromal tumors: recurrence patterns and prognostic factors for survival. Ann Surg 231 (1): 51-8, 2000.