GIST (Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor) recurrence is possible after a patient completes an initial course of treatment and is believed to be cancer-free for a period of time that can span months or even years. GISTs are considered to be highly treatable, and in most cases, the tumors are small, nonaggressive and can be controlled through surgery or a combination of surgery and targeted therapies. Even so, the cancer can potentially reappear within the gastrointestinal tract or elsewhere in the body. To detect a possible GIST recurrence, most patients are monitored with computed tomography (CT) scans at three-to-six month intervals during the first few years following surgery.
Some factors that are believed to influence the likelihood of GIST recurrence include:
- Tumor size – In general, larger tumors (those that measure more than 2 centimeters) are more likely to recur than smaller tumors.
- Mitotic index (the number of dividing tumor cells) – A higher number of dividing cells indicates a more aggressive tumor, which is more likely to recur than a slow-growing tumor.
- Tumor location – Tumors that originate in the stomach are less likely to recur than tumors that develop elsewhere within the digestive system.
In addition to having regular follow-up appointments, some patients receive ongoing targeted biologic therapy treatments to attempt to reduce the likelihood of GIST recurrence, especially if risk factors are present or evidence of cancer remains following surgery.
The oncologists in Moffitt Cancer Center’s Gastrointestinal Oncology Program are experienced in treating GI cancers of all types and stages, including GIST recurrence. As the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center based in Florida, Moffitt is highly acclaimed for its research efforts and robust clinical trials program, which includes promising new therapies that aren’t available elsewhere. We offer GIST patients access to comprehensive cancer care under one roof, and we never require referrals.