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GASTROINTESTINAL STROMAL TUMORS (GISTs)

Ryan, (name changed) GIST survivor today advices and encourages other gastro patients to have faith, to stay strong, never to give up and to fight like they have never fought before. Ryan was a good eater and would eat everything and anything, until one day he experienced severe indigestion and this was something new for him. When an endoscopy was done a large tumor was seen in his stomach. This narrowed the opening of Ryan’s stomach to the size of a ball point pen and it had also spread to his esophagus and lymph nodes. He was diagnosed with 4th stage stomach cancer. But his positive attitude is praise worthy he decided to keep moving forward and not to look back. Chemotherapy, Surgery and radiotherapy were also done and he braved every treatment. He rode his motorbike to the hospital 5 days a week for follow up programs. This continued for a year and then a PET scan was done which showed that his treatment was successful and he had no evidence of cancer.  These days he works 3 days a week and gets disability and social security payments. Today he attends as many as possible cancer survivors’ meetings and enjoys meeting other survivors. He also meets those who are going through treatment and narrates his story to encourage them during their difficult days of treatment.

Napoleon Bonaparte, the French leader had severe abdominal pain, vomiting and serious weight loss typical symptoms of gastric cancer. After his death in 1821 an autopsy showed a large tumor in his stomach. But at that time medicine was not as advanced as it is today.

What is GISTs?

Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors are benign tumors that occur in the gastrointestinal tract, it begins in the digestive system. They mostly occur in the stomach and small intestine. A GIST is a growth of cells they form from a special type of nerve cells. These special nerve cells are in the walls of the digestive organs. GISTs can occur at any age; but most commonly occur in 60 years of age.

GISTS SYMPTOMS:

GISTs grow very slowly and are not problematic at first, but as it grows the signs and symptoms include:

  1. Abdominal pain after eating
  2. A growth that you can feel in your abdomen
  3. Fatigue
  4. Nausea and vomiting
  5. Even if  you don’t eat stomach full you feel you have eaten sufficient
  6. Dark-colored stools as there is a bleeding in the digestive system.

CAUSES OF GISTs:

  1. Most of the causes are unknown.
  2. A small number are caused by genes passed from parents to children.
  3. Most common in adults or at any age but very rare in children.

DIAGNOSIS FOR GISTs:

After finding the symptoms a few tests are needed to find the tumor. The tests are:

  1. IMAGING TESTS:The imaging tests helps to find the tumor and its size. The tests might include Ultrasound, CT, MRI and PET scan.
  2. UPPER ENDOSCOPY: A long tube is sent through the mouth and down the throat with a light at the end of the tube. The esophagus, stomach and the first part of the small intestine is seen.
  3. ENDOSCOPIC ULTRASOUND (EUS): It uses sound waves to make pictures of the tumor and its size is seen.
  4. FINE-NEEDLE ASPIRATION BIOPSY: With a thin, hollow needle on the tip of the endoscope small amounts of tissue is collected for the lab tests.

These tests help to find out- the sample of the tissue sent to the lab whether it is cancerous cells and then the treatment is planned.

TREATMENT OF GISTs:

Some small GISTs do not need treatment but if the GISTs grow a treatment is started, like:

  1. SURGERY:  Surgery is the first treatment for GISTs that have not spread to the other parts of the body. The type of surgery depends on your cancer. Small cuts may be made in the abdomen using surgical tools.
  2. TARGETED DRUG THERAPY: This treatment focuses on specific chemicals present within the cancer cells, the chemicals are blocked and the drug can kill the cancer cells. Targeted surgery treatments are given to lower the risk so that the cancer does not come back or to shrink the tumor before the surgery or if the GIST comes back.
  3. CHEMOTHERAPY AND RADIATION THERAPY:  is rarely done to treat GISTs.

PREVENTION OF GISTs:

To prevent GISTs you need to change your lifestyle such as reducing on the consumption of alcohol, quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight.

JULY 13 GIST AWARENESS DAY:

On this day Lavender or Violet color ribbon is worn to highlight the awareness day. On this day we doctors conduct seminars to speak about, to increase awareness and educate the general public on what to look for to know if one has GIST. The causes, symptoms, diagnosis and pattern of treatment are discussed. Survivors of GIST also share their trauma and encourage the patients to bravely face the days of treatment and emerge victorious like them.

In spite of educating there is huge lack of awareness among the general public about GIST. Awareness Day serves to educate the people to learn about and to lend people’s support to the cause of the disease and its treatment.

The theme of this day is-‘Time To Tell The Stories.’ On this day as doctors and the survivors speak about this rare and often misunderstood disease and promise to continue our mission to help patients to survive. Our goal on this day –GIST Awareness Day is to educate as many people as possible about the disease and that further research, trails and new medical interventions for GIST is going on with powerful doctor contingents.

Activities that can be taken up are:

  1. Social Media: A message can be put up by survivors –a Face book Story, a message on Tik-Tok- a simple quote about your own story with GIST.
  2. Like and share others messages on GIST Awareness Day.
  3. Be sure to use hash tags on all your social media messages.
  4. FUNDRAISERS: A fundraiser page on Face book or any other social media can be made or patient support programs can be held by having a stall or a cultural program and the amount raised can be used for the patients’ treatment. This can also begin a month in advance of the awareness day.
  5. More ideas can be discussed on this day.

 

For Consultation : Cancer Specialist and oncologist

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