Understanding Your Stage of Kaposi’s Sarcoma

If you are diagnosed with Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), your doctor needs to know the stage of the cancer. The stage of a cancer tells how far the cancer has spread. It also helps determine the best treatment for you. It is hard to stage AIDS-related KS because it comes from a disease that hurts the entire immune system.

The main staging system for Kaposi’s sarcoma is the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) system. This system determines the stage of KS by 3 factors. Doctors refer to these stages using the letters T, I, and S.

  • “T” is for the size of the tumor.

  • “I” is for the health of the immune system. This is measured by the CD4 cell count.

  • “S” is for the extent of the illness in the body, called systemic illness.

Then doctors divide the disease into 2 subgroups. A 0 stands for low risk of problems, and a 1 stands for a higher risk of problems.

  • T0. KS is confined to the skin and lymph nodes. There is little KS in the mouth. The lesions are flat and are mainly on the roof of the mouth.

  • T1. The tumor is widespread. There may be swelling due to the tumor, many lesions on the mouth, or KS in organs besides the mouth.

  • I0. CD4 cell count is 200 or more cells per cubic millimeter.

  • I1. CD4 cell count is lower than 200 cells per cubic millimeter.

  • S0. No history of opportunistic infections or fungal infection of the mouth called thrush. No unexplained fever, night sweats, unexpected weight loss of more than 10%, or persistent diarrhea. You have the ability to get up and take care of yourself.

  • S1. Systemic illness is present. A history of opportunistic infections or thrush. Other HIV-related disease, such as lymphoma. Difficulty getting up and taking care of yourself.


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