What Are the Key Statistics About Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors?

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) are not common, and the exact number of people diagnosed with these tumors each year is not known. Until the late 1990s, not much was known about these tumors (and doctors didn’t have good ways of identifying them with lab tests), so many of them ended up being classified as other kinds of GI cancers.

Current estimates for the total number of GIST cases each year in the United States range from about 4,000 to about 5,000.

These tumors can start anywhere in the GI tract, but they occur most often in the stomach (about 60%) or the small intestine (about 30%). Most of the rest are found in the esophagus, colon, and rectum. A small number develop in the abdomen outside the GI tract.

Most people diagnosed with GIST are older than 50, but these tumors can occur in people at any age. They are slightly more common in men.

Survival statistics for GIST are discussed in “ Survival rates for gastrointestinal stromal tumors.”

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Last Medical Review: April 4, 2014 Last Revised: February 8, 2016

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