A Gist Of The GISTs: Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor Awareness Day 2022
Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST) Awareness day is declared on 13th July 2022 to educate the public about this rare and most unexplored type of cancer. The GIST awareness day aims to scale up the practice of gene mutation testing to catch the disease at its early stages and spread the need for more research to improve the disease prognosis. The theme of GIST awareness day 2022 is “Time to tell stories” and it emphasizes the individuals affected by the Gastrointestinal stromal tumor to open up their journey of tackling this disease.
A Gist Of The GISTs
On the occasion of GIST awareness day 2022, get a comprehensive picture of the Gastrointestinal stromal tumors.
Gastrointestinal stromal tumors are the most uncommon type of soft tissue sarcoma that happens in the gastrointestinal tract. Gastrointestinal stromal tumors develop from the special nerve cells called interstitial cells of Cajal. These cells are present in the lining of the digestive system and also known as the pacemaker of the gut as it plays a vital role in instructing the gastric muscles to contract. And, it helps in the smooth passage of food and liquids along the gastrointestinal tract. However, Gastrointestinal stromal tumors can occur anywhere from the mouth to anus, the common site of occurrence are the stomach and small intestine.
How Do Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors Occur?
Gastrointestinal stromal tumors develop as small noncancerous tumors, which can further progress into large and harmful tumors. Gastrointestinal stromal tumors happen as a result of abnormal cell division, where the cells grow in a rapid fashion.
Risk Factors Of GISTs
Let’s discuss the causes of Gastrointestinal stromal tumors on this GIST awareness day.
GIST strikes more commonly in people of age above 50 years and studies found that the risk is higher in males than females.
Gene Mutations: Most Gastrointestinal stromal tumors are developed due to the mutations in their genes. This gene produces a protein KIT CD 117 which acts as a signal for uncontrolled cell division. Studies also state that 10% of GISTs are associated with a mutation in PDGFRA which is also involved in providing instructions for the cell proliferation process.
Family History: The mutations in KIT genes can run through the families. If you have a family history of GIST, you are likely to develop GIST at a younger age only. You are at greater risk if you have a family history of carney-stratakis syndrome, a genetic condition that is developed due to a mutation of succinate dehydrogenase, an enzyme that plays a role in the metabolism of food.
Personal History: If you have had a history of neurofibromatosis type 1, a disease that causes tumors to develop in the nerve tissues, you are at a high risk of getting GIST.
Because of the rarity of the tumors, they are often detected accidentally during surgery or while performing other investigations for other conditions.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of GISTs?
- Reduced appetite
- Extreme fatigue
- Belly discomfort
- Blood in stool
- Trouble swallowing
- Dramatic weight loss
- Blood Vomiting
How Does A Doctor Confirm The GISTs?
Based on the presented symptoms, your gastroenterologist will conduct the primary investigations such as physical examination and basic blood tests based on your medical history. If your gastroenterologist suspects GIST, you will be advised on an upper endoscopy to identify the nature of the tumor and rule out the presence of cancerous cells.
Subsequent studies will be conducted to confirm the GIST clinically:
CT Scan: A Computed tomography will be done to get a true picture of the abdomen and to detect the tumor's location.
PET Scan: To confirm the spread of cancerous cells and ensure that the tumor is truly localized, a PET scan will be conducted. If any abnormal growth is identified, the surgeon may remove it, send the sample for a biopsy and test the tumor based on the genetic makeup.
GISTs Are Treatable
On account of GIST awareness day, understand the treatment options available for curing gastrointestinal stromal tumors.
Your oncologist will frame a proper treatment plan if the GISTs are confirmed clinically. If the tumor size is small, GISTS can be treated by surgery, and if it’s larger or spread to a nearby part, surgery may not be a suitable option.
Targeted therapy might be incorporated as it competitively works in shrinking the tumor size and retards the cancer progression. Imatinib is one such targeted drug therapy that is predominantly used in treating gastrointestinal stromal tumors, it is formulated as a pill and intended for oral use only. Imatinib has been widely used because it produces its action by binding to KIT proteins and effectively reduces the tumor size. Other medications of the class tyrosine kinase inhibitors that are used in GISTs treatment include Sunitinib and Regorafenib.
Holistic Living After GIST Treatment:
It is advised to go for regular follow-up tests every 3-6 months after the completion of treatment. During the follow-up care, doctors may conduct a few imaging studies to identify the risk of relapse. It is normal to feel a little anxious post GIST treatment; thus, getting your survivorship plan and diet chart from proper counselors shall improve your overall well-being. Follow the precautions below to reduce the likelihood of recurrence.
- You may develop vitamin deficiency, if you have undergone surgery to remove the tumor, hence it is suggested to discuss with your doctor regarding the supplement therapy.
- Try to consume smaller meals every 2 - 3 hours if you are experiencing digestive problems.
- Avoid taking foods that contain refined carbohydrates, sugary substances and processed meat as it may cause tummy discomfort and worsen the symptoms.
- Strenuous exercises or lifting weights has to be avoided for six months post abdominal surgery.