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GIST staging is a standardized process that allows physicians to describe the extent and spread of a gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) in consistent and commonly understood terms. While this information alone is not determinative of a patient’s outcome, it is one factor that physicians consider when recommending the most appropriate form of treatment.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, GIST staging is performed collaboratively by a multispecialty team of cancer experts. To assign a stage to a patient’s cancer, these specialists analyze the results of a number of diagnostic tests, such as physical examinations, imaging scans, endoscopies and biopsies. A key benefit of this approach is that each patient at Moffitt receives multiple expert opinions in a single location, with or without referrals.

To determine GIST staging, the experts at Moffitt utilize the American Joint Committee on Cancer TNM (tumor, node, metastasis) system, which is based on four key pieces of information:

  • The size of the GIST (“T,” or tumor)
  • Whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes (“N,” or nodes)
  • Whether the cancer has metastasized to other areas of the body (“M,” or metastasis)
  • The speed at which the cancer cells are growing and dividing (mitotic rate)

The “T,” “N” and “M” GIST staging categories are each assigned a number ranging from zero to four, or the letter “X”. Higher numbers are indicative of more advanced cancers, and “X” indicates that insufficient information is available to make a proper assessment.

After determining the TNM values, the Moffitt’s GIST experts carefully review this information in totality. The combined TMN values and mitotic rate correspond to one of four GIST staging categories. The overall GIST stage grouping is expressed as a Roman numeral ranging from I (least advanced) to IV (most advanced).

Moffitt’s Gastrointestinal Oncology Program offers a full range of treatments, including promising new therapies that are made available through clinical trials, for patients at all levels of GIST staging. To learn more about our individualized treatment plans and evidence-based techniques, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online.