Kaposi's sarcoma is a type of skin cancer that usually starts within the dermis, one of the layers of skin. The disease begins as small bruise-like areas that develop into tumors. Before the mid-1980s, Kaposi's sarcoma was extremely rare. It has become more common because it tends to develop in people with HIV infection and AIDS.
At The Cancer Center, we feature the following services for people with Kaposi's sarcoma:
- board-certified dermatologists, infectious diseases specialists, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists who are highly skilled in diagnosing, treating, and managing Kaposi's sarcoma and related HIV infection and AIDS
- state-of-the-art diagnostic technology and imaging studies
- clinical trials to investigate new medications and treatment methods
- a full range of support services
The greatest risk factor for Kaposi's sarcoma is being infected with HIV or having AIDS. Effective treatment for AIDS may reduce a patient's risk for developing Kaposi's sarcoma. Other people at risk include men of Mediterranean or Jewish heritage, children or young men in certain parts of Africa, and persons who must take immunosuppressant medications after organ donation.
Kaposi's sarcoma can be first noticed when small bruise-like areas begin forming in the skin. Eventually these areas develop into tumors.
Effective treatment for AIDS may reduce a patient's risk for developing Kaposi's sarcoma. Treatment for AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma generally does not cure the disease but significantly relieves the pain and discomfort that accompany the lesions.
Two or more treatment methods may be used:
surgery to treat local areas of Kaposi's sarcoma:
- surgical excision to remove the lesion
- electrodesiccation and curettage (scraping out the cancer with a long, thin instrument then using electrodes to destroy any remaining tissue)
- cryosurgery to freeze and kill abnormal cells
- low-dose external beam radiation therapy as the primary treatment when the Kaposi's sarcoma is localized or in an area that is unsightly or causing pain
- chemotherapy injected into the tumor if it is localized or given intravenously using a combination of medications for patients with more than 25 lesions
- immunotherapy using interferon to boost the ability of the patient's immune system to fight the Kaposi's sarcoma
- antiviral therapy