Finding out that you have gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) can feel overwhelming, especially since it is such an uncommon type of cancer. You may have questions about how your life will change, how the cancer and its treatment affect you, and how your job and relationships will be impacted.
Gastrointestinal stromal tumor is a type of cancer known as a soft tissue sarcoma that affects the GI tract. However, GIST has become a treatable disease over time. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and following doctor’s orders will help improve your treatment experience.
Incidence and Mortality
Estimated new cases and deaths from soft tissue sarcoma in the United States in 2014:
New cases: 12,020.
Soft tissue sarcomas are malignant tumors that arise in any of the mesodermal tissues of the extremities (50%), trunk and retroperitoneum (40%), or head and neck (10%). The reported international incidence rates range from 1.8 to 5 per 100,000 per year.
Risk Factors and Genetic Factors
The risk of sporadic soft tissue sarcomas...
The symptoms of GIST can have a large impact on your life because they affect your GI tract. You may have severe pain in your abdomen. Eating may become difficult due to nausea, stomach pain, and a feeling of fullness. You may feel fatigue, which will affect your activities of daily living.
GIST treatment may have side effects as well. Talk to your doctor if symptoms or treatment side effects become severe or when symptoms interfere with your life. Talk to your health care provider about any treatment side effects so that your doctor can prescribe supportive medication to help relieve treatment-related symptoms.
Staying Healthy With GIST
Eating the right foods is very important when you have GIST. Here are some tips for eating with GIST:
The surgery used to treat GIST can cause food to move through the GI tract too quickly. This is known as "dumping syndrome." As a result, you may find it is difficult to eat three large meals a day. If digestion is a problem, try to eat smaller mini-meals or portions every two to three hours.
After surgery, vitamin and mineral deficiencies may develop due to a lack of absorption. Therefore, supplements may be helpful. Talk to your doctor about which supplements may be helpful for you.
Limit sugary foods and excess fluids, as these can worsen symptoms. Adding more complex carbohydrates and protein to the diet may help you feel better.
See a dietitian if possible. A dietitian can help you plan a menu of foods that are more agreeable to the GI tract.