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Kaposi’s Sarcoma

What Is Kaposi’s Sarcoma?

Kaposi’s sarcoma is a type of cancer in which tumors form on the skin, membranes in the mouth, lymph nodes, the lungs and other organs.  Skin lesions are red, brown or purple. They may begin in more than one area of the body at the same time.

There are four types of Kaposi’s sarcoma. All four types are associated with the human herpes virus, type 8.

  • Epidemic (AIDS-related) Kaposi’s sarcoma – This is the most common type in the US. It develops in HIV-infected individuals who may or may not have AIDS.

  • Classic Kaposi’s sarcoma – This type primarily affects older men of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean or Eastern European origins.

  • African or endemic Kaposi’s sarcoma – This type occurs predominantly in young men living near the equator in Africa.

  • Iatronic (transplant-related) Kaposi’s sarcoma – This type is also called immunosuppressive therapy-related Kaposi’s sarcoma. It develops in patients who are on drugs to suppress their immune systems after an organ transplant.


Skin lesions are the trademark sign of Kaposi’s sarcoma, and they usually appear on the legs or face. But they can appear in other areas.

  • Swollen legs or feet – Lesions on the legs or in the groin sometimes block blood flow, leading to painful swelling in the legs or feet.

  • Shortness of breath – Lesions on the lungs may block airways and cause shortness of breath.

  • Abdominal pain and diarrhea – Lesions on the gastrointestinal tract can lead to abdominal pain and bloody or tarry diarrhea.

Treatment Options

Treatment options offered by a Temple dermatologist depend on the type of Kaposi’s sarcoma and may include:

  • Cryotherapy – Lesions are frozen with liquid nitrogen and destroyed.

  • Excision – Surgeons remove affected areas and the healthy tissue surrounding them.

  • Curettage – A curette or sharp, spoon-shaped tool cuts tumors from the skin. An electrode then delivers an electric current to stop bleeding and destroy cancer cells around the wound’s edge.

  • Radiotherapy – This cancer treatment uses high-energy X-rays to kill or block cancer cells on the skin.

  • Immunosuppressive drug modifications – Reducing or changing immunosuppressive drugs may help patients with transplant-related Kaposi’s sarcoma.

  • Chemotherapy – Cancer-fighting drugs may be injected into abnormal tissue, taken orally or delivered intravenously (IV) to block cancer cell growth or division. 

  • Interferon – This biologic therapy, or immunotherapy, uses substances made by the body’s immune system to restore its defenses against cancer.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of Kaposi's sarcoma, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat Kaposi's sarcoma.