Key Statistics for 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 6,000.

These tumors can start anywhere in the GI tract, but they occur most often in the stomach (about 60%) or the small intestine (about 35%). Most of the rest are found in the esophagus, colon, and rectum. A small number develop in the abdomen outside the GI tract.

GISTs are most commonly found in people in their 60s. These tumors are rare in people younger than 40, but they can occur in people at any age.

Survival statistics for GIST are discussed in Survival Rates for Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors.

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American Joint Committee on Cancer. Gastrointestinal stromal tumors. In: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 7th ed. New York, NY: Springer; 2010:175-180.

Casali PG, Dei Tos AP, Gronchi A. Chapter 55: Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015.

National Cancer Institute. Physician Data Query (PDQ). Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors Treatment. 2017. Accessed at www.cancer.gov/types/soft-tissue-sarcoma/hp/gist-treatment-pdq on April 17, 2017.

Last Medical Review: May 17, 2017 Last Revised: May 17, 2017

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