Your treatment will depend on the type of Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS) you have, the number of lesions you have, where they are, your general health and your age.
Epidemic or Aids-related KS
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You and your specialist will usually consider different factors before making a decision about treatment. These include how well you are, how well your immune system is working and whether you have general symptoms.
If you have early-stage KS and untreated HIV infection, you will usually be given drug treatment for HIV called highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). HAART works by reducing the level of HIV 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 distress or other 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, while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells.
Sometimes KS is more advanced by the time it is diagnosed. If the KS is affecting the lungs, stomach or bowel, or in the mouth making it difficult to eat. or if it is ulcerated or causing swollen limbs, you’ll usually be offered chemotherapy as well as HAART. 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 is usually treated with chemotherapy.
Acquired or transplant KS
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This type of 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.