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Gastric Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors Differential Diagnoses

  • Author: Michael A Choti, MD, MBA, FACS; Chief Editor: N Joseph Espat, MD, MS, FACS  more...
Updated: Sep 15, 2015

Diagnostic Considerations

Other problems to be considered in the differential diagnosis include the following:

  • Gastric schwannoma
  • True smooth muscle tumor of the stomach (leiomyoma)
  • Gastric sarcoma

The differential diagnosis for gastric stromal tumors includes benign lesions such as true leiomyoma, schwannoma, lipoma, ectopic pancreas, and sarcomas.[14]

Other possible lesions include the much more common gastric adenocarcinoma and other rare submucosal malignant tumors such as lymphoma and carcinoid.

Not infrequently, patients with GISTs of the stomach present with a large mass in the epigastrium or left upper quadrant. In such cases, the differential diagnosis may include masses originating from other organs such as the liver, spleen, pancreas, left adrenal gland, or retroperitoneum.

Differential Diagnoses

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Michael A Choti, MD, MBA, FACS Hall and Mary Lucile Shannon Professor and Chair, Department of Surgery, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Michael A Choti, MD, MBA, FACS is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, American Surgical Association, International Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association, Americas Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association, American Society of Clinical Oncology, American College of Surgeons, Association for Academic Surgery, Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, Society of Surgical Oncology, Society of University Surgeons

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Fabian M Johnston, MD, MHS, FACS Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Fabian M Johnston, MD, MHS, FACS is a member of the following medical societies: American Medical Association, National Medical Association, Society of Black Academic Surgeons, Society of Surgical Oncology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Chief Editor

N Joseph Espat, MD, MS, FACS Harold J Wanebo Professor of Surgery, Assistant Dean of Clinical Affairs, Boston University School of Medicine; Chairman, Department of Surgery, Director, Adele R Decof Cancer Center, Roger Williams Medical Center

N Joseph Espat, MD, MS, FACS is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Association for Cancer Research, American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association, American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Americas Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association, Association for Academic Surgery, Central Surgical Association, Chicago Medical Society, International Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association, Pancreas Club, Sigma Xi, Society for Leukocyte Biology, Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons, Society of Surgical Oncology, Society of University Surgeons, Southeastern Surgical Congress, Southern Medical Association, Surgical Infection Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Robert C Shepard, MD, FACP Associate Professor of Medicine in Hematology and Oncology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Vice President of Scientific Affairs, Therapeutic Expertise, Oncology, at PRA International

Robert C Shepard, MD, FACP is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for Cancer Research, American Association for Physician Leadership, European Society for Medical Oncology, Association of Clinical Research Professionals, American Federation for Clinical Research, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group, Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer, American Medical Informatics Association, American College of Physicians, American Federation for Medical Research, American Medical Association, American Society of Hematology, Massachusetts Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Shown here is a gastric gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST). This is a gross specimen following partial gastrectomy. Note the submucosal tumor mass with the classic features of central umbilication and ulceration.
CT scan of the abdomen with oral contrast in a 60-year-old woman with a gastric gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST). A huge mass with central necrosis is observed originating from the gastric wall and narrowing its lumen. An ulcer crater can be identified within the mass (arrow).
Photomicrograph of gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) and magnified 40X. Note the solid sheet of spindle cells.
Photomicrograph of gastric gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) and magnified 400X. This stromal tumor demonstrates spindle cells with epithelioid features.
Photomicrograph of gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) with immunohistochemical staining for CD117. Note the strong positive staining of tumor cells with negative staining of the adjacent vessel. Positive stain for CD117 is diagnostic of GIST.
Table 1. Staging System for Malignant Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors
Group Tumor Size Regional Lymph Node Metastasis Mitosis
Stage IA T1 or T2 N0 M0 Low
Stage IB T3 N0 M0 High
  T1 N0 N0 High
Stage II T2 N0 M0 High
  T4 N0 M0 Low
Stage IIIA T3 N0 M0 High
Stage IIIB T4 N0 M0 High
  Any T N1 M0 Any rate
Stage IV Any T Any N M1 Any rate
Table 2. Five-Year Survival According to Size and Number of Mitoses


Mitoses per 20 HPF 5-Year Survival Rate
< 6 < 4 97.5%
>6 < 4 91.5%
< 6 >4 80.0%
>6 >4 17.7%
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