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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 cancers.
Current estimates for the total number of GIST cases diagnosed 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 over the age of 50. These tumors are rare in people younger than 40, but they can develop in people of any age.
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
American Joint Committee on Cancer. Chapter 43: Gastrointestinal stromal tumors. In: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 8th ed. New York, NY: Springer; 2017.
Casali PG, Dei Tos AP, Gronchi A. Chapter 60: Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2019.
Morgan J, Raut CP, Duensing A, Keedy VL. Epidemiology, classification, clinical presentation, prognostic features, and diagnostic work-up of gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST). UpToDate. 2019. Accessed at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/epidemiology-classification-clinical-presentation-prognostic-features-and-diagnostic-work-up-of-gastrointestinal-stromal-tumors-gist on October 14, 2019.
National Cancer Institute. Physician Data Query (PDQ). Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors Treatment. 2018. Accessed at www.cancer.gov/types/soft-tissue-sarcoma/hp/gist-treatment-pdq on October 14, 2019.
Last Revised: January 26, 2021
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