Mayo Clinic doctors use surgery, drugs (chemotherapy), targeted cell therapy, radiation therapy and radiofrequency ablation to treat gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs).
- Surgery. Removal of the tumor is the primary treatment for GISTs. Mayo Clinic surgeons remove small tumors through small incisions using laparoscopic surgery. If your GIST is large or attached to other organs, the surgeon may remove parts of the affected organs.
The surgeon may also remove small amounts of tissue outside your GIST to avoid tumor rupture and prevent future obstruction to your digestive tract. You may receive chemotherapy, targeted cell therapy or radiation therapy before surgery to reduce tumor size or after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells.
- Targeted therapy. Targeted therapy against an enzyme called tyrosine kinase treats your tumor by working against genetic changes that cause GISTs. Imatinib (Gleevec) is the most common of these therapies.
If your tumor is too large or invasive to be removed with surgery, your doctor may use targeted therapy to shrink the tumor enough to make surgery possible. If your tumor is removed, your doctor may recommend targeted therapy to reduce the risk of recurrence.
- Radiofrequency ablation (RFA). During RFA, your doctor inserts a thin needle guided by ultrasound or CT scan into your tumor and generates heat to destroy cancer cells. You may receive RFA if you have several tumors or liver tumors that can't be removed, or to relieve symptoms of GISTs such as pain.
Because GISTs may recur after treatment, you'll visit your doctor every three to six months after treatment and, later, yearly. Follow-up care at Mayo Clinic includes imaging studies that allow your doctor to detect changes or tumors that may require further treatment.