ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the estimated number of people who will be diagnosed with a gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) each year. You will also read general information on surviving the disease. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors, and no 2 people with a tumor are the same. Use the menu to see other pages.
Every person is different, with different factors influencing their risk of being diagnosed with this tumor and the chance of recovery after a diagnosis. It is important to talk with your doctor about any questions you have around the general statistics provided below and what they may mean for you individually. The original sources for these statistics are provided at the bottom of this page.
How many people are diagnosed with a GIST?
GISTs are rare, making up less than 1% of all gastrointestinal tumors. Each year, approximately 4,000 to 6,000 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with a GIST. About 60% of GISTs begin in the stomach, and around 35% develop in the small intestine. Other GISTs usually start in the rectum, colon, and esophagus. Some may develop in the abdomen but outside of the gastrointestinal tract.
What is the survival rate for a GIST?
There are different types of statistics that can help doctors evaluate a person’s chance of recovery from a GIST. These are called survival statistics. A specific type of survival statistic is called the relative survival rate. It is often used to predict how having a tumor may affect life expectancy. Relative survival rate looks at how likely people with a GIST are to survive for a certain amount of time after their initial diagnosis or start of treatment compared to the expected survival of similar people without this tumor.
Example: Here is an example to help explain what a relative survival rate means. Please note this is only an example and not specific to this type of cancer. Let’s assume that the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific type of cancer is 90%. “Percent” means how many out of 100. Imagine there are 1,000 people without cancer, and based on their age and other characteristics, you expect 900 of the 1,000 to be alive in 5 years. Also imagine there are another 1,000 people similar in age and other characteristics as the first 1,000, but they all have the specific type of cancer that has a 5-year survival rate of 90%. This means it is expected that 810 of the people with the specific cancer (90% of 900) will be alive in 5 years.
It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with a GIST are only an estimate. They cannot tell an individual person if the tumor will or will not shorten their life. Instead, these statistics describe trends in groups of people previously diagnosed with the same disease, including specific stages of the disease.
The overall 5-year relative survival rate for a GIST in the United States is 85%.
The survival rates for a GIST vary based on several factors. These include the stage of tumor, a person’s age and general health, and how well the treatment plan works. Other factors that can affect outcomes include specific biologic characteristics of the tumor, how well the treatment plan worked, and the risk that it will come back after treatment.
If the tumor has not spread from the organ where it started, the 5-year relative survival rate is 95%. If the cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or organs, the 5-year relative survival rate is 84%. If the cancer has spread to a distant part of the body when it was first diagnosed, the relative survival rate is 52%.
Experts measure relative survival rate statistics for a GIST every 5 years. This means the estimate may not reflect the results of advancements in how a GIST is diagnosed or treated from the last 5 years. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about this information. Learn more about understanding statistics.
Statistics adapted from the websites of the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute. (All sources accessed February 2023.)
The next section in this guide is Risk Factors. It describes the factors that may increase the chance of developing a GIST. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.