What is Kaposi sarcoma?
Kaposi sarcoma (KS) is a rare cancer of the mucous membranes and skin lining the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This includes everything from the mouth to the anus. There are four types of this cancer: epidemic (AIDs-related) KS, endemic (African) KS, classic (Mediterranean) KS, and transplant-related KS.
What are the symptoms of Kaposi sarcoma?
KS tumors appear as purple nodules or patches, but they may also be red or brown. While they begin on the skin and mucous membranes, they have the potential to metastasize to the lungs and lymph nodes. If they do spread, symptoms may also include breathing restrictions, swelling of the lymph nodes, and coughing up blood.
What causes Kaposi sarcoma?
Human herpesvirus 8 – also referred to as Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus – causes this rare cancer. Doctors are not exactly sure how this virus is transmitted, but they do know that less than 1% of the U.S. population are carriers, and that four demographics account for the four types of KS and nearly all cases.
They have also identified a number of risk factors associated with this cancer, such as being male, a weakened immune system, and being of older age.
How is Kaposi sarcoma diagnosed?
Because this cancer is so rare, diagnosis can be a long and difficult process. When the process does begin, doctors will look for the characteristic signs of the cancer, perform a physical exam, and check the lymph nodes. Tests will be conducted, such as a skin biopsy, bronchoscopy, chest X-ray, and endoscopy.
What are the treatments for Kaposi sarcoma?
There is no cure for the underlying virus that causes KS, so doctors focus on managing symptoms and the cancer itself. If there is an underlying cause that is weakening the immune system, the first step is to address it and strengthen the immune system. Other options include local therapies (e.g., cryosurgery, phototherapy, excision, local radiation, injected chemotherapy), chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.