Kaposi's Sarcoma

Posted September 14, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 4 min read

Kaposi’s sarcoma is a form of cancer in which tumors with tiny blood vessels grow below the surface of your skin and in your mouth, nose, eyes, and anus. It can spread to your lungs, liver, stomach, intestines, and lymph nodes, the glands that help your body fight infection.

Types of Kaposi’s Sarcoma

There are four types of Kaposi’s Sarcoma which are stated below

Epidemic or AIDS-associated

This is the most common kind in the U.S. It affects people who have HIV. It’s known as an AIDS-defining illness because it’s on the CDC’s list of conditions that mean someone’s HIV infection has become AIDS.


This type affects older men of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, or Eastern European descent.


Children and young people from Africa get this kind of KS.


This kind affects people who have had organ transplants and take drugs that slow down their immune system.

Causes of Kaposi’s Sarcoma

  • KS is caused by the herpes virus HHV-8, also called Kaposi’s sarcoma-related herpesvirus (KSHV).

  • It spreads mainly through saliva, such as during sexual contact or in interactions between a mother and child.

  • People with healthy immune systems can carry the virus without any problems.

  • But it triggers cancers in people with weakened immune systems.

Symptoms of Kaposi’s Sarcoma


The most visible signs of KS are lesions on your skin: flat, painless spots that are red or purple on light skin and bluish, brownish, or black on dark skin. Unlike bruises, they don’t change color when you press on them. They aren’t itchy, and they don’t drain. They’re not dangerous.

New spots may show up each week. For some people, these lesions change slowly. They may grow into raised bumps or merge together.

Mucous membranes

KS lesions can form inside your mouth and throat, causing trouble eating or swallowing. They might also happen on your eyes and under your eyelids.

Lymph nodes

When lesions block the flow of lymphatic fluid around your body, they can lead to severe swelling in your arms, legs, face, or scrotum.

Respiratory tract

Lesions inside your lungs may cause serious coughing and shortness of breath.

Digestive tract

Lesions in your stomach and intestines can lead to bleeding and blockages. You may have:

  • An upset stomach

  • Vomiting

  • Belly pain

  • Diarrhea

  • Bloody or black poop

  • Low red blood cell counts (anemia)

Diagnosis of Kaposi’s Sarcoma

Fecal occult blood test

This looks for blood in your stool, which might mean KS is hurting your digestive tract.


If you’re having stomach trouble or belly pain, your doctor might want to look in your stomach with a lighted tube called an endoscope or in your intestines with a colonoscope.


If you have trouble breathing, they might look into your airways with a thin tube called a bronchoscope.

Imaging tests

A CT scan or an X-ray can tell whether the cancer has spread to your lungs, your lymph nodes, or other parts of your body

Treatment of Kaposi’s Sarcoma

  • Your treatment will depend on how many lesions you have, how big they are, where they are, and how well your immune system is working.

  • In many cases, antiretroviral therapy is the best way to treat active Kaposi’s sarcoma.

  • It may even clear up skin lesions.

  • If you have just a few lesions, your doctor can cut or freeze them off.

  • It’s not a cure for KS, but it can make your skin look better.

  • If you have lots of lesions or the virus is affecting many areas of your body, you might get radiation therapy.

  • This kills the cancer cells or keeps them from growing.

  • A machine directs radiation toward the lesions on your skin, or your doctor may put radioactive needles, seeds, or wires inside you near the cancer.

  • Chemotherapy can have side effects, including hair loss, vomiting, and fatigue. It can also lower your platelet and white-blood-cell counts and raise your chances of an infection.

If KS has spread, you’ll need medications that go through your whole body to kill the cancer. Chemotherapy drugs for Kaposi’s sarcoma include:

  • Doxorubicin (Adriamycin, Doxil)

  • Paclitaxel (Taxol)

  • Vinblastine (Velban)

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