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Kaposi’s sarcoma Symptoms and Treatment

What is it?

Kaposi’s sarcoma is a cancer characterized by the development of spots on the skin, mouth, nose, throat, lymphatic vessels and other organs. These tasks are usually purple-red in color and are associated with cancer cells or blood cells.

These red and purple spots are usually not associated with any symptoms despite the fact that they may be painful.
In the context where cancer cells spread in the digestive tract or lungs, abnormal bleeding can occur and respiratory deficiency more or less important.


Examinations of the lungs, gastrointestinal tract and skin are often made in the diagnosis of the disease. In cases where the presence of Kaposi’s sarcoma has been demonstrated, other tests identify whether the cancer cells have developed in other parts of the body.

Kaposi’s sarcoma is a rare chronic disease directly related to a primary infection with human herpes virus 8 (HHV8) or Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

Different forms of the disease have been highlighted:

  • The classical form, characterized by a very rare chronicity. This form causes tumors in the skin. The people most subject to this type of Kaposi’s sarcoma are more generally the elderly with a male predominance;
  • The endemic form is characteristic of mass development in East Africa. This form concerns both children and adults, who are often young. It is a more serious pathological type that can affect the lymph nodes and viscera;
  • The form of the transplant is, as its name suggests, identified in transplant patients who are receiving immunosuppressive therapy.

In the Western world, this pathology affects more homosexual men or bisexuals affected by HIV.

Symptoms of Kaposi’s sarcoma

The symptoms associated with Kaposi’s sarcoma are primarily cutaneous. It involves stains, redness and swelling of the skin but also mucous membranes, especially of the mouth. Nevertheless, these clinical manifestations can also develop on other parts of the body.
These patches and characteristic bumps are usually painless and red-purple in color. It is also possible to distinguish bruises around tumors.

Other symptoms may also appear, such as:

  • Lymphoedemas, which are tumors localized in the lymph nodes. The latter can then block the lymphatic circulation and thus cause accumulations of lymphatic fluid in certain parts of the body. The impacted limbs are then heavy and sore;
  • Lung disorders caused by the development of tumors in the lungs. These disorders cause blockage in breathing and cause shortness of breath, cough and chest pain;
  • Digestive disorders caused by the development of tumors in the gastrointestinal tract. The associated symptoms are then nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea or bleeding from the rectum;
  • Flu-like symptoms: tiredness, fever, pain, body aches, weight loss, etc.


The origins of the disease

Kaposi’s sarcoma is directly related to a primary infection with two types of viruses:
– human herpesvirus 8 (HHV8);
– the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Transmission of these viruses occurs through sexual contact, vertical transmission (from mother to child) or saliva.

A higher prevalence of the disease has been detected in the male homosexual population. The transmission of these viruses in this population is predominantly sexual.
Nevertheless, children, women and heterosexuals, for their part, are more generally affected bymother-to-child transmission or by saliva.

There are, however, a significant number of carriers of the disease but no symptoms. These “healthy carriers” can cause human-to-human infections when donating organs or blood.

Many questions about the possible origins of the disease remain. Although a close link between HHV8 and HIV infection has been demonstrated, interactions with the immune system are still unclear.
In this sense, the nature of the development of tumor cells characteristic of Kaposi’s sarcoma is still, to date, little known.

Risk factors for Kaposi’s sarcoma

The risk factors for the development of Kaposi’s sarcoma are:
– primary infection with human herpesvirus 8 (HHV8);
– a primary infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

In addition, a higher prevalence for this condition was found in heterosexual men. This makes it an additional risk factor for this population.

Given the lack of knowledge about the exact origins of the disease’s development, other risk factors may also be associated with it, but to date, they remain poorly understood.

Prevention and treatment of Kaposi’s sarcoma

The diagnosis of Kaposi’s sarcoma is based on a set of examinations of the skin, gastrointestinal tract and lungs, such as:

  • Physical examinations and the patient’s history can identify the general characteristic signs of the disease, such as skin swelling for example. An inventory of habits in terms of health, lifestyle or taking certain treatments can also guide the diagnosis;
  • radiography of the lungs, bones and other organs provides an image of the localization favorable to the development of the tumor;
  • A tissue biopsy can be performed to detect the possible presence of cancer cells.
  • Endoscopy or bronchoscopy can be performed to identify lesions originating from Kaposi’s sarcoma in the gastrointestinal tract or lungs.

The treatment of Kaposi’s sarcoma is translated through HIV medication but also by radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

Antiretroviral therapy for HIV can be used to treat skin lesions associated with Kaposi’s sarcoma. However, the decrease in symptoms can be long (in a few months).

As far as radiotherapy is concerned, the latter makes it possible, thanks to the use of high energy rays, to destroy the tumor cells. In addition, side effects associated with radiation therapy include fatigue and redness, darkening or burning of the skin.

Chemotherapy treatment is defined as the use of anticancer drugs.

Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs.
The adverse effects of this method result from loss of appetite, hair loss, generalized weakness, anemia, nausea, ulcers, etc.

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