Rare type of cancer mainly seen in people with poorly controlled or severe HIV infection. It can affect some people with weakened immune system. It can affect the skin and internal organs.

It is caused by the human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8), otherwise known as the Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV). This virus is thought to be spread during sex, through saliva, or from a mother to her baby during birth. A weakened immune system allows the virus to multiply in the blood, which increases the chance of developing Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Common symptoms include:

  • small, painless, flat and discoloured patches on the skin or inside the mouth.
    • Over time, the patches may grow into lumps known as nodules and may merge into each other.
  • uncomfortable swelling in the arms or legs (lymphoedema)
  • breathlessness
  • coughing up blood
  • chest pain
  • nausea, vomiting
  • stomach pain
  • diarrhea


Physician may do/request:

  • History & Physical Exam
    • Ask about your symptoms and past health
    • Assess if you are high risk for HIV infection
  • Diagnostic Tests
    • HIV test – a blood test to confirm whether or not you have HIV
    • Skin biopsy – where a small sample of cells is removed from an affected area of skin and checked for abnormal cells
    • An endoscopy – where a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope is passed down your throat to see if your lungs or digestive system are affected
    • CT scan -to see if your lymph nodes or other parts of your body are affected



  • HIV-related Kaposi’s sarcoma
    • HIV-related Kaposi’s sarcoma can progress very quickly if not treated. However, it can usually be controlled by combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). This prevents HIV multiplication and allows the immune system to recover. Some cases may require treatment with radiotherapy or chemotherapy, depending on the site and extent of the cancer.
  • Classic Kaposi’s sarcoma
    • Classic Kaposi’s sarcoma mainly affects middle-aged and elderly men of Mediterranean or those descended from Jewish communities that lived in central and eastern Europe. The symptoms of Classic Kaposi’s sarcoma progress very slowly and usually limited to the skin. Immediate treatment isn’t usually required because, in many cases, the condition doesn’t affect life expectancy. Careful monitoring of the patient is usually done. Treatment with radiotherapy is started only when the symptoms get worse. Small skin lesions in the form of patches or nodules may be removed using minor surgery or cryotherapy.
  • Transplant-related Kaposi’s sarcoma
    • Transplant-related Kaposi’s sarcoma is a rare complication of an organ transplant.  Transplant-related Kaposi’s sarcoma can be aggressive and usually needs to be treated quickly. The immunosuppresants being taken by the patients should be stopped, if possible. If unsuccessful, radiotherapy or chemotherapy may be an alternative.
  • Endemic African Kaposi’s sarcoma
    • Although classified separately from HIV-related Kaposi’s sarcoma, many cases may of Endemic African Kaposi’s Sarcoma result from an undiagnosed HIV infection. All suspected cases must be tested for HIV, as the most effective treatment in these cases is HIV medication.


With proper treatment, Kaposi’s Sarcoma is usually controlled. Deaths from the condition are uncommon. The skin lesions will often shrink and fade with treatment, although they may not disappear  A complete cure for any type of Kaposi’s sarcoma isn’t always possible. There’s a chance that the condition could recur in the future. If this happens, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Related Articles


Overview and FactsTypes and SymptomsDiagnosis & MedicationsOverview and Facts Multidrug-resistant TB is generated by an organism resistant to both rifampin [...]


Overview and FactsTypes and SymptomsDiagnosis & MedicationsOverview and Facts Unexplained respiratory disease outbreaks (URDO) cause serious health issues in populations [...]


Overview and FactsTypes and SymptomsDiagnosis & MedicationsOverview and Facts Undulant Fever is a particular kind of infectious illness caused by [...]