Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor

GIST treatment at Scripps in San Diego

Scripps Health offers options for the treatment of gastrointestinal stromal tumors.

GIST treatment at Scripps in San Diego

Whether malignant or benign, gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) require expert, comprehensive care that Scripps teams in San Diego offer.

U.S. News & World Report ranked Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla and Scripps Green Hospital among the best in the nation for gastroenterology and gastrointestinal surgery.

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What is a GIST?

Originating in the digestive track, GIST cancer most often appears in the stomach or upper part of the small intestine. It can also be found in the esophagus, large intestines or anus.

Detection and diagnosis of GIST

Tests and procedures used to diagnose GISTs can include a physical exam and review of family history, as well as one or more of the following:

  • Upper endoscopy is a procedure where a physician uses an endoscope to examine the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and first section of the small intestine. The procedure is also known as an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD).
  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) combines an endoscopy with ultrasound to obtain images of the area in question.
  • Biopsy is the collection of a small part of the suspicious tissue for testing and further examination in the lab by a pathologist.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan is a form of X-ray imaging test that captures images of the body from different angles. The images are combined to detailed cross-sectional views of organs, bones and blood vessels.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan uses a glucose that contains a radioactive substance (called a “tracer”) to look for cancer. Cancer cells absorb large amounts of radioactive sugar, so if cancer is present in other areas of the body, it can appear as areas of radioactivity that are captured with a special camera. A PET scan is combined with a CT scan.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) relies on a powerful magnet, radio waves and advanced digital technology to provide detailed images of organs, bone and soft tissue.

GI stromal tumor treatment

Treatment depends on the stage of the gastrointestinal stromal tumors, patient health and other factors. Treatment options may include:


GISTs can be removed surgically if they haven’t spread. Sometimes surgery can be performed laparoscopically in a procedure where small incisions are made in the wall of the abdomen. Radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be used pre-surgery to shrink tumors, or post-surgery to target cancer cells that can’t be seen.

Targeted therapy for gastrointestinal stromal tumors

Targeted therapy drugs can be used to treat GISTs that are not good candidates for surgery. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) can block the growth GISTs or shrink them to a small enough size for surgical removal. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved three drugs for GISTs and other forms of cancer.

Support services

To enhance the care of people with gastrointestinal stromal tumors, Scripps Health also offers the following services: