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Kaposi sarcoma

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Kaposi sarcoma is a type of soft tissue cancer. While it usually is found on the skin or in the lining of the mouth, Kaposi sarcoma can also be found in the lymph nodes (glands), lungs, stomach, bowel and liver.

 

Unlike other soft tissue sarcoma, Kaposi sarcoma is caused by a virus called human herpesvirus 8, or HHV-8. Most people who have the virus will never know they have it because it shows no symptoms in healthy people.

 

However in people with weakened immune systems, the HHV-8 virus can grow out of control and cause Kaposi's sarcoma.

 

Are there different types ?

 

Kaposi sarcoma has four main types that are grouped based on people's risk. This includes HIV-related Kaposi's sarcoma, classic Kaposi sarcoma, transplant-related Kaposi sarcoma and African Kaposi sarcoma.

 

HIV

 

People with HIV are at the highest risk of getting Kaposi sarcoma. This is because HIV is very damaging to the immune system, however HIV-related Kaposi sarcoma is less common now than it was in the past because there are medications to manage HIV.

 

Organ transplants

 

It is very rare that people who receive organ transplants will develop Kaposi sarcoma, however because of the medications they take to make their immune systems weak to avoid the body rejecting the organ transplant, these people are at a higher risk of getting Kaposi sarcoma.

 

This type of Kaposi sarcoma is called iatrogenic Kaposi sarcoma or acquired Kaposi sarcoma.

 

Classic Kaposi sarcoma

 

This type of Kaposi sarcoma is rare but is most likely to occur in older men who are Eastern European, Meditteranean or Middle Eastern. Usually this type of cancer is slow growing and does not cause many serious complications.

 

African Kaposi sarcoma

 

This type of Kaposi sarcoma is found in Africa because there is a higher rate of HHV-8. The cancer can occur at any age, however it is more common in people under 40.

 

How can I find out if I have it?

 

If a medical professional suspects that you might have Kaposi sarcoma based on your symptoms, may first do a biopsy (tissue sample) of the area to test for cancerous cells.

 

Other tests may include

  • stool (poop) sample to test for blood
  • x-ray or a CT scan
  • bronchoscopy
  • endoscopy
  • colonoscopy

 

Kaposi sarcoma may requires many of the above tests based on your symptoms to figure out where or if the cancer has spread.

 

Treatment

 

Treatment for Kaposi sarcoma will depend on the type of Kaposi sarcoma that you have.

 

HIV-related Kaposi sarcoma has historically been more dangerous than other Kaposi sarcomas, however it has become easier to treat with antiviral drugs (HIV drugs). If you have HIV-related Kaposi sarcoma, then you may only need to switch to different antiviral medications that will continue to manage HIV while building up specific cells in your immune system. If you require more treatment, this may include removing the skin lesions from your body, or in more advanced cases, having chemotherapy.

 

Organ transplant-related Kaposi sarcoma may be able to be treated by coming off the drugs that are suppressing the immune system. However, if the medication is still needed, your doctor may recommend switching to a different medication that will continue to supress the immune system. If this doesn't work, your doctor may recommend either radiation or chemotherapy.

 

Classic Kaposi sarcoma usually does not need treatment because of how slowly it grows, however if needed, your doctor may recommend both radiation and or chemotherapy.

 

Cases of Kaposi sarcoma in Africa will most likely require chemotherapy.

 

Talk to me.

 

Kaposi sarcoma is a type of soft tissue cancer. While it usually is found on the skin or in the lining of the mouth, Kaposi sarcoma can also be found in the lymph nodes (glands), lungs, stomach, bowel and liver.

 

Unlike other soft tissue sarcoma, Kaposi sarcoma is caused by a virus called human herpesvirus 8, or HHV-8. Most people who have the virus will never know they have it because it shows no symptoms in healthy people.

Graphic representation of Kaposi's sarcoma

 

However in people with weakened immune systems, the HHV-8 virus can grow out of control and cause Kaposi's sarcoma.

 

Are there different types ?

 

Kaposi sarcoma has four main types that are grouped based on people's risk. This includes HIV-related Kaposi's sarcoma, classic Kaposi sarcoma, transplant-related Kaposi sarcoma and African Kaposi sarcoma.

 

HIV

 

People with HIV are at the highest risk of getting Kaposi sarcoma. This is because HIV is very damaging to the immune system, however HIV-related Kaposi sarcoma is less common now than it was in the past because there are medications to manage HIV.

 

Organ transplants

 

It is very rare that people who receive organ transplants will develop Kaposi sarcoma, however because of the medications they take to make their immune systems weak to avoid the body rejecting the organ transplant, these people are at a higher risk of getting Kaposi sarcoma.

 

This type of Kaposi sarcoma is called iatrogenic Kaposi sarcoma or acquired Kaposi sarcoma.

 

Classic Kaposi sarcoma

 

This type of Kaposi sarcoma is rare but is most likely to occur in older men who are Eastern European, Meditteranean or Middle Eastern. Usually this type of cancer is slow growing and does not cause many serious complications.

 

African Kaposi sarcoma

 

This type of Kaposi sarcoma is found in Africa because there is a higher rate of HHV-8. The cancer can occur at any age, however it is more common in people under 40.

 

How can I find out if I have it?

 

If a medical professional suspects that you might have Kaposi sarcoma based on your symptoms, may first do a biopsy (tissue sample) of the area to test for cancerous cells.

 

Other tests may include

  • stool (poop) sample to test for blood
  • x-ray or a CT scan
  • bronchoscopy
  • endoscopy
  • colonoscopy

 

Kaposi sarcoma may requires many of the above tests based on your symptoms to figure out where or if the cancer has spread.

 

Treatment

 

Treatment for Kaposi sarcoma will depend on the type of Kaposi sarcoma that you have.

 

HIV-related Kaposi sarcoma has historically been more dangerous than other Kaposi sarcomas, however it has become easier to treat with antiviral drugs (HIV drugs). If you have HIV-related Kaposi sarcoma, then you may only need to switch to different antiviral medications that will continue to manage HIV while building up specific cells in your immune system. If you require more treatment, this may include removing the skin lesions from your body, or in more advanced cases, having chemotherapy.

 

Organ transplant-related Kaposi sarcoma may be able to be treated by coming off the drugs that are suppressing the immune system. However, if the medication is still needed, your doctor may recommend switching to a different medication that will continue to supress the immune system. If this doesn't work, your doctor may recommend either radiation or chemotherapy.

 

Classic Kaposi sarcoma usually does not need treatment because of how slowly it grows, however if needed, your doctor may recommend both radiation and or chemotherapy.

 

Cases of Kaposi sarcoma in Africa will most likely require chemotherapy.

 

Symptom list:

Kaposi sarcoma

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Financial support

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p.s. Just because you have insurance, that doesn't mean that charities or other organizations are not able to support you too.

Emotional support

Whether it's a free counseling session or to find someone with a similar diagnosis, these Germie approved charities might be able to help. Click to explore their offerings!

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