Kaposi Sarcoma: Symptoms and Treatment

Kaposi sarcoma, also called Kaposi’s sarcoma and KS, is a particular kind of tumor described by a Hungarian dermatologist named Moritz Kaposi in 1872.  The disease is caused by the Human herpesvirus 8 or HHV8.  This virus is also known as Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpsvirus or KSHV.  Sarcoma has been also described by cancer specialists as a cancer of supportive tissue and has been known to affect any number of a patient’s organs and is considered as the most common of cancers in patients suffering from the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS.  It must be stressed, however, that because cancer is neither contagious nor infectious, and because sarcoma is a type of cancer, it cannot be passed on from one individual to another.  Also, Kaposi sarcoma is quite rare outside HIV and AIDS patients who are inflicted with it.

There are four known types of Kaposi sarcoma: classic, endemic or African, immunocompromised, and AIDS-related.  The classic type of sarcoma is rare and is usually found in older men, usually between the ages of 50 and 70, who have a Mediterranean heritage or an Eastern European heritage.  It presents under the skin and as lesions on a patient’s lower extremities.  The endemic or African type of sarcoma is also considered rare and is found in young men who happen to live near the equatorial region of Africa and shares most of the symptoms that occur in the classic type of sarcoma.  The immunocompromised type of sarcoma can occur in organ transplant patients who are often required to take immunosuppressive medication and can affect one’s skin or their internal organs.  The AIDS-related type of sarcoma is considered the most aggressive of all the types and may begin as lesions on a patient’s skin, in their mouth, or in their lymph nodes and can spread to the internal organs and on to the rest of the body.

The most common symptom of Kaposi sarcoma is the appearance of lesions that range in color from pink, purple, or red in lighter skinned patients to brown or black in darker skinned patients and these lesions can be found on the skin, mouth, gastrointestinal tract, and respiratory tract.  Other symptoms may include pain the abdominal area, labored breathing, a persistent cough, and swelling caused by lymph nodes that are blocked.

There are a variety of treatments that can be considered in handling Kaposi sarcoma and the choice of treatment often depends on several factors such as one’s age, their health, the progression of the disease, the location of the tumor, etc.  The treatments are as follows:

Antiretroviral therapy

This therapy is often recommended for patients who have HIV since the antiretroviral drugs prescribed can actually suppress HIV-infected cells.


If the lesions are considered safe to remove, they are done so using surgical excision.  If the cancer is discovered early, cryosurgery may be done.


This can be administered throughout the entire body or directly at the tumor.

Radiation therapy

This can be used to shrink tumors.

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