Kaposi's sarcoma

Kaposi's sarcoma is a tumour caused by human herpesvirus 8 (HHV8), a virus most associated with AIDs patients. The infection is not curable, but its symptoms can be treated and managed for many years. Kaposi's sarcoma is classically characterised by the presence of dark lesions on the skin, mouth and respiratory tract.

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Interferon alfa-2b
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Kaposi's Sarcoma Symptoms

Symptoms of Kaposi's sarcoma depend on which part of the body it affects, and the severity with which the patient has the condition. Notwithstanding this, there are numerous hallmark symptoms that have come to typify Kaposi's sarcoma, such as the following:

  • Dark skin lesions
  • Swelling
  • Inflammation
  • Lymphoedema
  • Weight loss
  • Bleeding
  • Fever
  • Malabsorption

Not all patients experience these symptoms, but they tend to occur as the condition advances. If the condition is not kept under control, more severe symptoms may be experienced – such as coughing up blood, pneumonia and death.

Kaposi's Sarcoma Causes

Kaposi's sarcoma is directly caused by infection with human herpesvirus 8 (HHV8). However, other factors may conspire in a patient contracting the infection, such as:

  • Co-infection with HIV
  • Immunosuppression
  • Immunocompromised body
  • Organ transplantation
  • Blood transfusion

Kaposi's sarcoma typically presents itself in AIDS patients. This is because their bodies are both immunosuppressed and immunocompromised as a result of the condition. The virus is transmitted through saliva and, consequently, can easily pass from one individual to another, particularly during sexual intercourse. The virus may also be transmitted via organ transplant and blood transfusion.

Kaposi's Sarcoma Diagnosis

There are numerous ways to diagnose Kaposi's sarcoma, some of which include:

  • Physical Examination
  • Chest X-Ray
  • Biopsy

First, a patient undergoes a clinical examination. This involves checking the general health, as well as the presence of any lumps or lesions on the body. A biopsy may also be taken to determine whether the lesion is caused by HHV8, and whether the vasculature of the lesion is typical for Kaposi's sarcoma. Doctors may also recommend a chest X-ray, as this can help determine if the sarcoma has spread to the lungs.

Kaposi's Sarcoma Treatment

Treatment options do exist for Kapos's sarcoma though the condition itself is not curable. Treatment options include:

  • Radiation Therapy
  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Biologic Therapy
  • Antiretroviral Therapy

The type of therapy chosen depends on the extent and severity of the infection. Given that Kaposi's sarcoma is a type of cancer, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are commonly employed. Other, newer, forms of therapy - such as the use of biologics - may also be deployed. It has been found that use of chemotherapy in conjunction with antiretroviral therapy has greater long-term effects than either taken alone.

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