Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor - GIST: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. Use the menu to see other pages.

People with a GIST often do not experience any specific symptoms or signs. A symptom is something that only the person experiencing it can identify and describe, such as fatigue, nausea, or pain. A sign is something that other people can identify and measure, such as a fever, rash, or an elevated pulse. Together, signs and symptoms 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

  • Fatigue due to anemia, which is a low red blood cell count and is often caused by bleeding in the 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 gastrointestinal 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 ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help figure out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

If a GIST is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of your medical care and treatment. This may be called "palliative care" or "supportive care." It is often started soon after diagnosis and continued throughout 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.