The majority of gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) are asymptomatic and are often diagnosed incidentally as part of routine testing. Endoscopies, colonoscopies, routine blood tests and stool tests may detect a GIST while a patient is without symptoms. Imaging, such as a CT scan or MRI, may also detect a GIST.
Our approach to cancer diagnosis and treatment provides better outcomes and gives you access to the most advanced treatment, surgical techniques and clinical trials. If you are diagnosed with a GIST, we’ll work together to create a personalized treatment plan tailored to meet your unique needs.
Signs and Symptoms of GISTs
Although many people with gastrointestinal stromal tumors do not show symptoms, the following signs may be associated with a GIST:
- Change in bowel habits
- Chronic, low-grade fever
- Decreased appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
However, these symptoms are also associated with other conditions, including benign abdominal tumors and inflammatory bowel disease.
If we suspect your have a GIST, you may undergo one of the following diagnostic procedures:
- Endoscopy — A gastroenterologist may perform an endoscopy to detect a GIST. Because GISTs arise within the muscular wall of the GI tract, they may not be visible with routine endoscopy. An endoscopic ultrasound may be performed in conjunction with endoscopy to more clearly see the muscular wall of your GI tract.
- Fine-needle aspiration — We might suggest a type of biopsy called a fine-needle aspiration if an abnormality is found during an imaging test, such as an ultrasound. The minimally invasive procedure is most commonly used to more closely examine cysts, masses or enlarged lymph nodes. A fine-needle aspiration can be done using an endoscope or through your skin (percutaneous). During fine-needle aspiration, we insert a thin needle attached to a syringe into abnormal tissue or body fluid. We then suction (aspirate) fluid or tissue into the syringe so it can be examined by a pathologist. The procedure usually takes less than 10 minutes and can be done in right in our offices.
- Tru-cut biopsy — This biopsy approach takes a larger tissue sample than fine-needle aspiration and is done using CT or ultrasound guidance. It is easier for a pathologist to determine a diagnosis because a larger tissue sample is collected.
Learn more about how we treat GISTs at Penn Medicine