Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor - GIST: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 11/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the changes and medical problems that can be a sign of a gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST). Use the menu to see other pages.

What are the symptoms and signs of a GIST?

People with a GIST often do not experience any specific symptoms or signs. Symptoms are changes that you can feel in your body. Signs are changes in something measured, like taking your blood pressure or doing a lab test. Together, symptoms and signs can help describe a medical problem. When symptoms do occur, they may be vague. Or, the cause of a symptom or sign may be a medical condition that is not a tumor.

  • Pain or discomfort in the abdomen

  • A mass in the abdomen that you can feel with your hand

  • Bowel obstruction

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Vomiting blood

  • Blood in the stool, such as black tarry stools

  • Fatigue due to anemia, which is a low red blood cell count and is often caused by bleeding in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract

People often do not experience any particular symptoms with GIST. It is often discovered during a medical evaluation due to chronic anemia, abdominal pain, or GI bleeding, or on imaging test done for another reason.

If you are concerned about any changes you experience, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will try to understand what is causing your symptom(s). They may do an exam and order tests to understand the cause of the problem, which is called a diagnosis.

If a GIST is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of your medical care and treatment. Managing symptoms may also be called "palliative and supportive care,” which is not the same as hospice care given at the end of life. This type of care focuses on managing symptoms and supporting people who face serious illnesses, such as cancer. You can receive palliative and supportive care at any time during cancer treatment. Learn more in this guide’s section on Coping With Treatment.

Be sure to talk with your health care team about the symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.