Kaposi's sarcoma symptoms, main causes and how to treat

Kaposi's sarcoma is a cancer that develops in the innermost layers of blood vessels and the most common manifestation is the appearance of red-purple skin lesions, which can appear anywhere on the body.

The cause of the appearance of Kaposi's sarcoma is infection by a subtype of virus in the herpes family called HHV 8, which can be transmitted sexually and through saliva. Infection with this virus is not enough for the appearance of cancer in healthy people, being necessary that the individual has a weakened immune system, as it happens in people with HIV or elderly.

It is important that Kaposi's sarcoma is identified and treated to prevent complications, and chemotherapy, radiotherapy or immunotherapy may be indicated by the doctor.

Main causes

Kaposi's sarcoma usually develops due to infection with a virus in the herpes virus family, HHV-8, but it can also be a consequence of HIV infection, both of which are transmitted sexually. However, the development of Kaposi's sarcoma is directly related to the person's immune system.

In general, Kaposi's sarcoma can be classified into 3 main types according to the factor that influences its development in:

  • Classic: rare, of slow evolution and that affects mainly elderly men with compromised immune system;
  • Post-transplant: appears after transplantation, mainly of kidneys, when the individuals have a weakened immune system;
  • Associated with AIDS: which is the most frequent form of Kaposi's sarcoma, being more aggressive and rapidly developing.

In addition to these, there is also endemic or African Kaposi's sarcoma which is quite aggressive and affects young people in the African region.

Kaposi's sarcoma can be fatal when it reaches the blood vessels of other organs, such as the lungs, liver or gastrointestinal tract, causing bleeding that is difficult to control.

Kaposi's sarcoma symptoms

The most common symptoms of Kaposi's sarcoma are red-purple skin lesions spread throughout the body and swelling of the lower limbs due to fluid retention. In black skin, the lesions can be brown or black. In the most severe cases, in which Kaposi's sarcoma affects the gastrointestinal system, the liver or the lungs, bleeding may occur in these organs, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

When the cancer reaches the lungs, it can cause respiratory failure, chest pain and sputum release with blood.

The diagnosis of Kaposi's sarcoma can be performed through a biopsy in which cells are removed for analysis, an X-ray to identify any changes in the lungs or an endoscopy to detect gastrointestinal changes.

How the treatment is done

Kaposi's sarcoma is curable, but it depends on the condition of the disease, age and the state of the patient's immune system.

The treatment of Kaposi's sarcoma can be done through chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy and medication. The use of antiretroviral drugs also helps to reduce the development of the disease and promotes the regression of skin lesions, especially in AIDS patients.

In some cases, surgery may be performed, which is usually indicated for people who have a small number of injuries, in which they are removed.