Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST)

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Treating Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST) TOPICS

How are gastrointestinal stromal tumors treated?

This information represents the views of the doctors and nurses serving on the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Information Database Editorial Board. These views are based on their interpretation of studies published in medical journals, as well as their own professional experience.

The treatment information in this document is not official policy of the Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.

Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don’t hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.

General treatment information

Once a gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) is found and staged, your cancer care team will discuss your treatment options with you. In determining these options, important factors include the tumor characteristics (such as its size, location, growth rate, and whether it has spread) and your overall health.

The main types of treatment used for GISTs include:

Other treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, are used much less often.

Based on your options, you might have different types of doctors on your treatment team. These doctors may include:

  • A gastrointestinal surgeon: a doctor who treats diseases of the digestive system with surgery.
  • A medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with medicines.
  • A gastroenterologist: a doctor who specializes in treatment of diseases of the digestive system.
  • A radiation oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy.

Many other specialists may be involved in your care as well, including nurse practitioners, nurses, nutrition specialists, social workers, and other health professionals.

It is important to discuss all treatment options as well as their possible side effects with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. If time permits, it is often a good idea to seek a second opinion. A second opinion can provide more information and help you feel confident about your chosen treatment plan.

The next few sections describe the different types of treatment for GIST. This is followed by a discussion of the most common treatment options based on the extent of the cancer.


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