Melissa D. Shepherd, Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Huntsman Cancer Institute, describes what gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) are — tumors that arise in the esophagus, stomach, small bowel, large bowel or the rectum. These tumors are not typically responsive to chemotherapy or radiation, Shepherd says, and are treated with surgery and a systemic treatment called a tyrosine kinase inhibitor.
GIST is usually found incidentally with a colonoscopy or an endoscopy; or during a scan for another condition. Initial symptoms of GIST can include abdominal pain, rectal bleeding or fatigue related to anemia. If these symptoms present in a patient, a physician will use a biopsy to diagnose the specific type of tumor.