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Your treatment will depend on the type of KS you have, the number of lesions you have, where they are, your general health and your age.
You and your specialist will usually consider different factors before making a decision about treatment. These include how well you are, how your immune system is working and if you have general symptoms.
In cases of KS that occur when HIV is diagnosed, treating HIV with special drugs known as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) usually gets rid of KS lesions. HAART works by reducing the level of the virus in the body and improving your immunity. Once treatment with HAART is started, KS often gets better or disappears. But this can take some months to happen.
During this time, if the skin lesions are causing distressing problems, a low dose of radiotherapy can be given to shrink them. Radiotherapy| treats cancer by using high-energy rays to destroy the cancer cells.
If KS affects the lungs, stomach or bowel or is causing general symptoms such as fever (high temperatures) and weight loss, you’ll usually need chemotherapy|. If you’re already having anti-HIV treatment when KS is diagnosed or if KS progresses, chemotherapy is usually advised.
Because it’s slow-growing and generally doesn’t cause any problems, classic KS doesn’t usually need to be treated. Radiotherapy is sometimes used to treat large or very visible lesions.
This type of KS is usually treated with chemotherapy.
Acquired or transplant KS can sometimes be controlled by stopping or switching the immunosuppressant drugs. If that doesn’t work you may need treatment with chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Research into new ways of treating Kaposi's sarcoma is going on all the time. Cancer doctors use clinical trials| to assess new treatments. Your doctor or specialist nurse can discuss any trials that may be relevant to your situation.
Before any trial is allowed to take place it must be approved by an ethics committee, which protects the interests of the patients taking part.
Your doctor or a research nurse will discuss the treatment with you, so that you fully understand the trial and what it means to take part. You may decide not to take part or withdraw from a trial at any stage. You will then receive the best standard treatment available.
Content last reviewed: 1 December 2011
Next planned review: 2013
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