What is Kaposi Sarcoma?

Kaposi Sarcoma is a type of cancer that causes patches of abnormal tissue to grow underneath the skin. These patches look like tumours that are red or purple in colour, and they usually grow on the lining of the nose, throat, mouth or other parts of your skin like the feet, legs, face or genital area (private parts).

This type of cancer is most common in men that are living with HIV (usually in the late stage), and it can be caused by a herpes virus called Kaposi Sarcoma Herpesvirus (KSHV). 

In cases where the Kaposi Sarcoma is severe, tumours may develop in the lungs or digestive tract (also known as the mouth and anus) and the people who have it may also need chemotherapy. 

Signs and symptoms 

The signs and symptoms of Kaposi Sarcoma may not be easily identifiable, but these are the most common ones amongst people living with HIV:

  • Red, purple or brown patches on the skin (like the face, legs, feet, genital area, lining on the mouth, nose or throat)
  • Painful swelling in the legs or feet
  • Tumours 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Unexpected abdominal pain 
  • An unexpected cough or chest pain


Kaposi Sarcoma can be treated with the following:


Radiotherapy is a treatment that kills abnormal cells through x-ray and high energy rays.


This treatment kills cancer cells that are multiplying or growing quickly.

HIV medication 

Antiretroviral (ARV) pills slow down the progression of the virus.

Even though there’s no guarantee that the Kaposi Sarcoma can be completely cured, the treatment may remove the cancer especially when it hasn’t affected the internal organs. Unfortunately, HIV cannot be cured. This doesn’t mean that the treatment is useless though because it will help with slowing down the HIV from spreading. 

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