Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST)

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Survival rates for gastrointestinal stromal tumors

Survival rates are often used by doctors as a standard way of discussing a person’s prognosis (outlook). Some people may want to know the survival statistics for people in similar situations, while others may not find the numbers helpful, or may even not want to know them. If you do not want to read about the survival statistics for gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) given in the next few paragraphs, skip to the next section.

It is very hard to get accurate numbers on survival rates for GISTs. Part of this is because these tumors are not common to begin with. In the past, they were often classified as other types of cancers, which made the numbers available for study even smaller. Treatment has also changed dramatically in recent years now that newer, targeted therapy drugs are being used. The survival rates below are based on people treated many years ago, largely before these newer treatments were used, so people being treated for GISTs today are likely to have a better outlook.

The 5-year survival rate refers to the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after their cancer is diagnosed. Five-year rates are used as a standard way of discussing prognosis. Of course, many people live much longer than 5 years. Five-year relative survival rates, such as the numbers below, assume that some people will die of other causes and compare the observed survival with that expected for people without the cancer. This is a more accurate way to describe the chances of dying from a particular type and stage of cancer.

The rates below are based on the stage of the cancer when the person was first diagnosed. When looking at survival rates, it’s important to understand that the stage of a cancer does not change over time, even if the cancer progresses. A cancer that comes back or spreads is still referred to by the stage it was given when it was first found and diagnosed, but more information is added to explain the current extent of the cancer. (And of course, the treatment plan is adjusted based on the change in cancer status.)

Based on people treated between 1992 and 2000, the overall relative 5-year survival rate of people diagnosed with a malignant GIST was estimated to be about 45%.

  • If the tumor was confined to the organ where it started, the 5-year relative survival was 64%.
  • If it had grown into nearby tissue when it was first diagnosed, the 5-year relative survival was around 30%.
  • If it had spread to distant sites when it was first diagnosed, the 5-year relative survival was 13%.

Again, the numbers for people now being diagnosed with GISTs are likely to be much better. Because these more effective treatments have not been available very long, it is not possible to say exactly how much they have changed the long-term outlook for people with GISTs. We do know that the short-term survival rates are much better, for example, for people diagnosed between 2000 and 2002 than they were for people diagnosed from 1992 through 1999 (before these new treatments were available).

  • If the tumor was confined to the organ where it started, the 2-year relative survival improved from 80% (1992-1999) to 86% (2000-2002).
  • If it had grown into nearby tissue when it was first diagnosed, the 2-year relative survival improved from 52% (1992-1999) to 68% (2000-2002).
  • If it had spread to distant sites when it was first diagnosed, the 2-year relative survival improved from 24% (1992-1999) to 53% (2000-2002).

Last Medical Review: 12/11/2012
Last Revised: 02/26/2013