Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors

Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GIST)

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) are rare benign or malignant tumors of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract that can be found in the esophagus, stomach, gallbladder, liver, small intestine, colon, rectum, and lining of the gut. Most cases of these tumors begin in the stomach and the second most common place is in the small intestine. They arise from special cells called interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) in the GI wall lining. ICCs are part of the autonomic nervous system. ICCs send signals to the muscles in the digestive system so that the muscles know to contract to move food and liquid through the GI tract. 

Benign (not cancerous) GISTs do not spread to other areas of the body. Malignant (cancerous) GISTs can spread to other parts of the body. Every GIST has the ability to become malignant. Sometimes a GIST that has been removed may come back in the same area and even spread outside the GI tract. 

At Yale Bariatric/Gastrointestinal Surgery, our innovative surgeons perform minimally invasive procedures, many of which are at the leading edge of gastrointestinal surgery, to treat GISTs. Our multidisciplinary team works collectively to create personalized treatment plans that provide the best options for each patient, reflecting his or her specific condition and individual needs.

Risk Factors

There are no known risk factors for developing a GIST. It is believed that the disease is caused by a mutation in an enzyme that is found on the surface of normal cells. This mutation causes the cells to grow and divide rapidly and out of control. This rapid division and growth of cells is what may produce a cancerous tumor.


In the early stages of a GIST, there may not be any symptoms. In later stages, symptoms may include: 

  • Vague abdominal pain 
  • Early feeling of fullness 
  • Vomiting 
  • Abdominal bleeding (presence of blood in stool or vomit) 
  • Fatigue (due to anemia) 
If you have one or more of the above symptoms, it does not mean that you have a GIST. If you think you may have a GIST, please contact your doctor.

Make An Appointment

Yale Bariatric/Gastrointestinal Surgery Program
40 Temple Street, Suite 7B
New Haven, CT 06510

T 203.785.6060 or 203.785.2616
F 203.785.6666

41.30395 -72.928946