András Szekfü, Budapest, Hungary

My own GIST history is very simple, but it has an important lesson.

Having turned seventy, I asked my doctor for the usual screenings of this age.  The gastric ultrasound exam was showing a suspicious shadow, and the following CT scan detected a potato-sized tumor on my stomach wall. I was operated within a few weeks.

During my laparoscopic surgery, there was no long incision, the surgeon worked through three small incisions. The histological examination afterward was showing that a malignant but slow-growing GIST tumor was removed. I did not know what GIST was – a relatively rare type of cancer, I was told.

Nine years have passed since then, I am seventy-nine now. With a successful operation, I did not need chemotherapy or radiotherapy. First I went for a CT scan every quarter, now I go once a year.  But what is the lesson of this story?

The tumor growing in my stomach did not cause any symptoms. It did not hurt, it did not appear to the touch, it did not disturb me. Had I not gone to the screening, it could have grown and have spread undetected with grave consequences.

The lesson is: don’t be afraid, ask your doctor for an examination. Your doctor will know, which screening is necessary at your age.

Had I missed that ultrasound screening nine years ago, most probably I would not be able to address you now at GIST Awareness Day.