HIV-related Kaposi’s Sarcoma

Advanced HIV-related Kaposi’s sarcomaWhat is HIV-related Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS)?

HIV-related Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS) is a rare type of cancer that affects the skin and organs inside the body, such as the lungs, liver and digestive tract, in patients living with active HIV infection.

The main activator of KS is a virus called human herpes virus 8 (HHV8). Not all individuals with the virus will develop KS; however, those with a weakened immune system (such as patients with active HIV) are more likely to develop KS.

I am HIV positive, am I at risk of KS?

KS is now less common in individuals with active HIV infection because the disease is usually well controlled with currently available anti-retroviral drugs. If you are HIV positive and have concerns about KS please consult your HIV specialist.

What are the common symptoms of HIV-related KS?

The most common symptom of KS is the appearance of red or purple patches (lesions) on the skin; it may be a single lesion or multiple lesions. These lesions may grow into lumps known as nodules. Other parts of the body such as the mouth, lungs, stomach or bowel can be affected. KS can cause swelling in your arms and legs and in some cases you may develop breathing difficulty and/or cough.

How is KS diagnosed?

In patients with HIV infection your specialist may suspect KS when there is evidence of skin lesions, you will usually need a biopsy of the lesion to confirm diagnosis. If the biopsy shows positive results your specialist may want you to receive further tests, such as a CT (computerised tomography) scan.

What treatments are available?

Treatment will depend on a number of factors such as number of lesions, where the lesions are situated and your general state of health. For this reason it is important you consult with your specialist regarding the best course of therapy.

Where can I go for more information?

It is advisable to speak with the specialist treating your condition.