What is Kaposi’s Sarcoma?

At Baylor Scott & White Greater Dallas Orthopaedics, we specialize in providing quality care for the most challenging cases. As regional leaders in orthopedic oncology, we treat a large number of patients every year with some of the least common forms of cancer. Soft tissue tumors as a category make up only 1% of all cancer diagnoses in the United States. The soft tissue tumor at the center of this blog occurs in only 6 per 1 million people each year.

In addition to being rare, the soft tissue sarcoma we’re discussing presents in four different types, all of which are treatable. The types are mostly defined by the regions and populations they develop in.

Epidemic Kaposi Sarcoma

Epidemic Kaposi Sarcoma is the most common type of Kaposi sarcoma in the United States, and is most commonly associated with AIDS. This type of KS develops in those with HIV, and is considered an AIDS defining illness, meaning that it indicates the person has developed AIDS (not just HIV)

Classic Kaposi Sarcoma

Classic Kaposi Sarcoma is also known as Mediterranean Kaposi sarcoma. It develops mostly in older people of mediterranean, eastern european, and middle eastern descent. It is more common in men.

Endemic Kaposi Sarcoma

Endemic Kaposi Sarcoma is also known as African Kaposi Sarcoma. It develops mostly in people living in Equatorial Africa. It usually occurs in people younger than 40, and sometimes presents more aggressively in children that haven’t reached puberty yet. Endemic Kaposi Sarcoma used to be the most common type of KS in Africa, but Epidemic type is more common now. 

Latrogenic Kaposi Sarcoma

Latrogenic Kaposi Sarcoma is also known as iatrogenic or transplant-related Kaposi sarcoma. It occurs in individuals that have undergone an organ transplant.

 

What Are The Symptoms of Kaposi Sarcoma?

While there is some variation in how the different types of Kaposi Sarcoma present, the condition is commonly characterized by lesions on the skin. The lesions are usually red, purple, blue, or brown and unlike bruises, do not change color when you apply pressure to them. The lesions can change, combine, or disappear from week to week. 

Those suffering from Kaposi Sarcoma may also experience otherwise inexplicable coughing or chest pain, stomach or intestinal pain, or other digestive issues which may indicate lesions have developed in the gastrointestinal system. 

Kaposi Sarcoma can also cause swelling due to blockage in the lymphatic system, known as Lymphedema. 

 

How is Kaposi Sarcoma Treated?

Aside from assessing ongoing symptoms, Kaposi Sarcoma can be diagnosed through various methods such as fecal occult blood tests, endoscopy or colonoscopy, bronchoscopy, or imaging tests such as a CT scan or X-Ray. 

Once an individual has been diagnosed with Kaposi sarcoma a treatment plan can be developed based on the volume and severity of lesions, and the overall state of your immune system. 

The most common treatment for Kaposi Sarcoma is antiretroviral therapy, as it treats the active sarcoma and in some cases may clear skin lesions. If an individual is seeking to resolve the lesions rather than the sarcoma, a doctor can cut or freeze them off. 

In some severe cases radiation therapy may be the most effective treatment, as it kills the cancer cells and prevents further growth. Advanced cases where the cancer has spread may require chemotherapy, so that the cancer can be addressed throughout your whole body.

Whatever the method, modern treatment can typically keep Kaposi sarcomas under control for many years. 

We hope this overview of Kaposi’s Sarcoma was insightful and enlightening. The team at Baylor Scott & White Greater Dallas Orthopaedics places a high value on informing our audience and improving the medical literacy of all we impact. 

As always, the content of a blog post is no substitute for a legitimate medical diagnosis. If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be suffering from a bone or soft tissue tumor, prioritize an appointment with a qualified medical professional at your earliest availability.