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HIV, AIDS, and Kaposi’s Sarcoma

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Diagnosing Kaposi's Sarcoma

All it may take to diagnose Kaposi's sarcoma is looking at the skin. Your doctor may remove a sample of tissue from a spot and examine it under a microscope. Called a biopsy, this can confirm the diagnosis. If you have respiratory symptoms, your doctor may use bronchoscopy to view your breathing passages through a lighted tube. Or, if you have gastrointestinal symptoms, your doctor may use endoscopy to view your gastrointestinal system through a lighted tube.

Treatment for Kaposi's Sarcoma

In many cases, HAART is the best way to treat active Kaposi's sarcoma. It may even clear up the skin lesions. These are other types of treatment you may need.

Local treatment. If you have just a few skin lesions, you may decide to have them removed. This does not cure Kaposi's sarcoma, but can greatly improve your appearance. This can be done in one of these ways:

  • Freezing with liquid nitrogen
  • Radiation treatment
  • Surgical removal
  • Injection with anti-cancer drugs like Doxil or alpha interferon
  • Treatment with Panretin gel (retinoic acid)

Systemic chemotherapy. To treat Kaposi's sarcoma that has spread to internal organs, you need drugs that treat your whole body. This is called systemic treatment. If HAART is not effective, your doctor may prescribe anti-cancer medications. Called chemotherapy, these are sometimes given in combination. These are common types of chemotherapy for Kaposi's sarcoma:

Doxil and DaunoXome are now available in liposomal form. This means they come in tiny fat bubbles, which last longer, can move to needed areas, and may reduce side effects.

These are some of the more common side effects of Kaposi's sarcoma chemotherapy:

  • Increased risk of infection from low white-blood-cell count
  • Increased risk of low platelet count
  • Hair loss
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Mouth sores
  • Skin changes
  • Numbness and tingling in hands or feet
  • Heart damage
  • Fatigue

Biological therapy. Produced by the body's own immune system, alpha interferon is one  type of biological therapy. Your doctor may prescribe it if your CD4 cell count is over 200 and you have a fairly healthy immune system. It works by activating your immune system to attack viruses and by preventing viruses from reproducing. It has gone out of favor for lack of evidence that it causes sustainable boosts in the immune system.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on August 17, 2014
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