Understanding Your Type of Kaposi's Sarcoma

These are the types of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) that are not related to HIV and AIDS.

  • Classic KS. This type usually appears in men older than 50 who are of Jewish, Italian, or Mediterranean descent. It grows slowly, sometimes over 10 to 15 years. As the disease gets worse, the lower legs may swell and the blood may not be able to flow well. KS can spread to other organs over time.

  • Endemic KS. This type occurs in men, women, and children in certain areas of Africa. Children usually have a more aggressive form of the disease.

  • Immunosuppressive treatment-related KS. This kind of KS may show up in people who are taking drugs to make their immune system weaker. The immune system helps the body fight off disease. People who have had an organ transplant must take drugs called immunosuppressants to stop their immune system from rejecting the new organ. Sometimes, the KS goes away when you stop taking the drugs.

On this site, the diagnostic and treatment information covered is for the type of KS related to AIDS.

  • AIDS-related KS. Some people who are infected with HIV get AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma. AIDS comes from HIV infection. But even if you have HIV you may not have AIDS. HIV can be in the body for a long time without causing any problems. The HIV virus kills T-helper (also called CD4) cells of the immune system. Killing these immune cells leaves the body unable to fight off infections from other viruses, bacteria, and parasites. AIDS starts when HIV damages the immune system enough to cause the CD4 (a type of immune cell called a T cell) count to drop to less than 200 per cubic millimeter of blood. When CD4 cells drop that low, a serious infection or cancers such as KS can occur. AIDS-related KS tends to be more aggressive and is harder to treat than other types of KS.

What to Know About AIDS-Defining Disease

The CDC has labeled KS an AIDS-defining disease. This means that it is one of the diseases linked with AIDS. An HIV-infected person who has KS has entered the AIDS syndrome phase. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (a kind of cancer of the lymph glands) and cervical cancer are other AIDS-defining diseases.


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