Kaposi's Sarcoma

Kaposi's sarcoma is a form of cancer, which results in growth of anomalous tissue scraps underneath the skin surface as well as in the inside layer of the mouth, throat, nose and various different organs. Generally, the color of these tissue patches is either red or purple, and they comprise carcinogenic as well as blood cells.

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While these red and purple tissue blotches usually do not trigger off any symptom, they are likely to be aching. However, in case this type of cancer extends to the lungs and the digestive tract, it may result in hemorrhages. Moreover, development of lung tumours makes breathing difficult for the patient.

In effect, Kaposi's sarcoma also referred to as KS in medical terminology, is a form of cancer that generally grows from the cells lining the blood or lymph vessels and the areas affected by such abnormal cell growths as known as lesions. As mentioned above, the atypical cells of this type of cancer cause tissue patches or even tumors on the skin that may be red, purple or brown in color. While, in several instances, the lesions formed by Kaposi's sarcoma do not result in any symptom, they make the skin appear ugly.

However, in some other instances, this form of cancer results in tender distensions, particularly in the region of the groins, the legs and/ or on the skin in the region of the eyes. Nevertheless, Kaposi's sarcoma may often result in grave problems; sometimes even prove to be critical, especially if the lesions are formed in the liver, lungs and/ or the digestive tract. For instance, if Kaposi's sarcoma develops in the digestive tract, it may result in hemorrhages and when it occurs in the lungs, it makes breathing troublesome.

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Different forms of Kaposi's sarcoma

There are some forms of cancers, especially those of the breast and lungs, which are of many different natures and they suggest that either distinct types of cells have turned out to be carcinogenic or different sorts of alterations have taken place in a specific type of cell. Conversely, the dissimilar forms of Kaposi's sarcoma are characterized by the separate body areas where it grows. However, it may be noted that modifications in the anomalous cells of Kaposi's sarcoma are extremely identical.

Epidemic (AIDS-related) Kaposi's sarcoma

Epidemic or AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma is known to be the most widespread form of this form of cancer in the United States. Generally, people who are already infected by HIV, the virus attributable to AIDS, develop this particular form of cancer. It is not necessary that all HIV positive persons or individuals who are infected by this virus will eventually have AIDS.

In effect, HIV may be present in one's body for a prolonged period, usually several years, prior to the development of the actual ailment. Precisely speaking, an individual has AIDS when the HIV has cause grave damage to the immune system leading to specific types of contagions as well as various other health problems, counting Kaposi's sarcoma. People are extremely susceptible to developing Kaposi's sarcoma when they are already infected by specific viruses, for instance, Kaposi's sarcoma herpes virus (also known as KSHV), and, at the same time, their immune system has already been ravaged by HIV.

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It is worth mentioning here that the chances of developing this form of cancer is intimately related to the CD4 count, which is actually the degree of the impact of HIV on an individual's immune system. In effect, the CD4 count is inversely proportionate to the risks of developing KS. In other words, the less the CD4 count is, the more the chances of an individual developing Kaposi's sarcoma.

In effect, Kaposi's sarcoma is believed to be an ailment that is 'AIDS defining'. In other words, it denotes that when one, who is already infected by HIV, develops this form of cancer, he or she is not only simply HIV positive, but will be officially suffering from AIDS too. The good news is that when HIV infection is treated using highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), very few people are known to eventually develop epidemic or AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma.

It has been found that in most cases treatment with HAART helps to thwart the development of advanced KS. Nevertheless, it should be underlined that HAART is not an absolute protection against Kaposi's sarcoma, as people who are undergoing treatment with this therapy and are well under control may still develop KS. Occasionally, people who are undergoing HAART may develop aggressive Kaposi's sarcoma and may need to be additionally treated with radiation, chemotherapy or some different therapy.

However, it should be borne in mind that HAART should be continued even when an HIV patient develops Kaposi's sarcoma. Unfortunately, there are still several regions in the world where HAART is yet to be available and AIDS patients who have developed Kaposi's sarcoma in such places may find their disease progress rapidly and eventually lead to their death in a brief period of time - just six months.

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Classic (Mediterranean) Kaposi's sarcoma

The form of KS known as classic Kaposi's sarcoma generally develops in aged people who are natives of the Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Eastern European regions. In addition, compared to women, this form of Kaposi's sarcoma is more widespread in men and those who suffer from this disease generally have one or additional lesions on their legs, soles of their feet and ankles.

Contrary to the other forms of Kaposi's sarcoma, the lesions occurring in this type of KS generally do not develop very frequently or grow very rapidly. In fact, patients who develop classic Kaposi's sarcoma usually have their origin in places where the infection of Kaposi's sarcoma herpes virus (KSHV) is more widespread compared to the United States or the northern regions of Europe.

People who suffer from classic Kaposi's sarcoma generally do not have as weak immune systems as those suffering from the epidemic or AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma. However, even their immune system is much vulnerable compared to those of the normal people. When the immune system becomes vulnerable, individuals who are prone to infection by KSHV are also more likely to suffer from Kaposi's sarcoma.

Endemic (African) Kaposi's sarcoma

People inhabiting the Equatorial regions in Africa generally develop endemic Kaposi's sarcoma, also known as the African KS. It is worth mentioning here that compared to the other regions of the world, the chances of being infected by Kaposi's sarcoma herpes virus KSHV is more widespread in Africa. In fact, there seems to be several other prevailing aspects in entire Africa that are primarily responsible for a large number of people, including children and women, being affected by in this continent.

It has been found that generally the younger people, particularly those below the age of 40 years, are more prone to developing Kaposi's sarcoma. This form of Kaposi's sarcoma is perhaps the most aggressive form of the disease that is found occurring in children even before their puberty. Endemic or African Kaposi's sarcoma normally has an effect on the lymph nodes as well as various different organs and has the potential to result in death just within one year of developing the disease.

It may be noted that there was a time when endemic or African Kaposi's sarcoma was most prevalent throughout the African continent, but gradually AIDS turned out to be more widespread there. Nevertheless, till today this type of Kaposi's sarcoma is most prevalent in Africa.

Iatrogenic (transplant-associated) Kaposi's sarcoma

Iatrogenic or transplant-related Kaposi's sarcoma is a form of KS which generally occurs in individuals whose immune system has been blocked out following an organ transplant. It may be noted that nearly all patients who have had an organ transplant require taking drugs with a view to prevent their immune system from refusing or even attacking or exterminating the new organ. These drugs often make the immune system weak and, thereby, augmenting the risks of the patient being infected with KSHV.

Once such patients are infected with this virus, they eventually develop Kaposi's sarcoma. Many a times, it has been found that discontinuing with the drugs that suppress the immune system or lessening their dosage helps to reduce the size of the lesions caused by Kaposi's sarcoma or even make them disappear completely.

Kaposi's sarcoma in HIV negative men having sex with men

Of late, there have been a number of reports regarding the development of Kaposi's sarcoma in males who engage in same sex activities, but are not affected by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). People who develop this form of Kaposi's sarcoma suffer from a mild form of the disease, which is comparable to the instances of classic Kaposi's sarcoma.

Kaposi's sarcoma treatment

While many forms of Kaposi's sarcoma may result in death within a few months of developing this type of cancer, it is also curable provided the immune system of the patients is healthy. However, people already suffering from AIDS and developing Kaposi's sarcoma generally do not survive for long after being affected by Kaposi's sarcoma herpes virus (KSHV).

It has been seen that aged men suffering from sluggishly developing Kaposi's sarcoma in just one or two places of the body may be treated successfully by removing their tumours either surgically or by freezing. However, patients having lesions on several areas of the body usually need to be treated with radiation therapy.

On the other hand, people who have very less number of lesions and do not have any additional symptoms may even prefer to skip treatment till their condition spreads to new body areas. In effect, patients who have developed an aggressive form of the disease, but still have a normal immune system, frequently do well when treated with chemotherapy drugs and/ or interferon-alpha medications.

As discussed earlier, patients who generally take medications that suppress the immune system, often find that their tumours have disappeared when they discontinue taking the immunosuppressant medications. However, if it becomes essential to continue with these immunosuppressant drugs owing to the basic conditions of the patient, physicians generally use radiation therapy and chemotherapy to treat Kaposi's sarcoma.

Nevertheless, it has been found that these methods of treatment are not as successful in patients having a vigorous immune system compared to those whose immune system is weak. Same is the case with patients suffering from AIDS; even in their case chemotherapy and radiation therapy does little to help. In fact, the utmost results of employing radiation therapy and chemotherapy are witnessed in patients whose immune system becomes stronger following thorough healing with the drugs used to treat AIDS. Generally speaking, treating patients who have developed Kaposi's sarcoma is unlikely to extend the life span of people who are already enduring AIDS.

The best possible method to treat the fundamental HIV infection is to employ potent combinations of potent antiviral drugs that help to holdback HIV from multiplying provided the lesions caused by Kaposi's sarcoma have not become extensive or unmanageable. In effect, it has been found that the use of such drugs not only lessens the occurrence of, but is also likely to avoid the ailment's advancement or progress to result in the development of new lesions. However, it is yet to be ascertained why this particular method is effective. According to one viewpoint, the increase in the functioning of the immune system leads to diminished intensity of proteins that induce the growth of carcinogenic tumours.

In the instance of Kaposi's sarcoma that has a very sluggish growth, treating the condition locally often proves to be sufficient. The superficial lesions caused by this type of KS may be easily got rid of by means of surgery. The other alternative treatments in this case include, electrical curettage and radiation therapy, wherein the lesions are burnt using an electrical current also known as 'cryotherapy'. It may be noted that cryotherapy employs the application of a very cold source, for instance, liquefied nitrogen, to the areas affected by this type of cancer with a view to eliminate the carcinogenic cells.

Many of the patients who endure Kaposi's sarcoma following any organ transplantation, it may be sufficient to lessen the dose of drugs administered to the patients to regulate the immune system or even to eradicate the cancer. However, this treatment approach augments the chances of the immune system rejecting the new organ. A report published by Spain's University of Barcelona says that any modification in the medication may possibly help in solving the problems of Kaposi's sarcoma following an organ transplant.

Normally, a patient who has developed epidemic or AIDS related Kaposi's sarcoma requires complete chemotherapy, which employs drugs to get rid of the carcinogenic cells. It is worth mentioning here that the patients may receive chemotherapy by taking pills or it may also administered into the body by means of a needle, either in the muscle or in any vein.

In fact, chemotherapy is denoted as a systemic healing as the drug goes into the bloodstream, passes throughout the body and also has the aptitude to eliminate cancerous cells that are beyond the original site. Since Kaposi's sarcoma is considered to be a systemic ailment, frequently occurring in several different parts of the body at the same time, it also requires a systemic therapy.

It is worth mentioning here that the organization called Gay Men's Health Crisis, also known as GMHC, has actually assessed some alternative treatment modes that have been experimented in people having Kaposi's sarcoma. However, their findings did not reveal any result that is unswervingly reliable. The various methods of treatments reviewed by the GMHC included use of shark cartilage, herbal as well as cathartic massage therapies with a view to augment the functioning of the immune system as well as transcendental meditation. In fact, physicians have also experimented with homeopathic remedies, but even in this case, the results have not proved to be very consistent.

Supplements and herbs

In addition to conventional treatments, people suffering from the form of skin cancer called Kaposi's sarcoma may find external application of lemon balm along with other herbs to facilitate treating the condition. They may prepare an effective herbal formula by making a paste of lemon balm cream, and a few drop of formula akin to Hoxsey that contains powdered turmeric, potassium iodide and apply it on the skin surface affected by Kaposi's sarcoma for a minimum of twice every day.

Additional things you may do

Besides conventional treatments like immune suppressant drugs, surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy as well as employing herbs and supplements, people having Kaposi's sarcoma may take some more initiatives to facilitate the treatment of their condition.

As discussed above, the form of skin cancer called Kaposi's sarcoma, especially the classic type, results in development of lesions mainly on the hands, arms, legs and feet. Although these lesions are generally painless, barring when their size becomes very large so as to create pressure on the blood and lymph vessels, they basically make the skin look very ugly.

In such cases, the physicians ask the patients not to use any type of external treatments since they do not help in changing the look of the lesions, but may result in unwarranted irritation of the skin. Hence, the best possible thing to do in such instances is to wrap the lesions with slack, relaxed clothes. In the event of the patient also enduring HIV/ AIDS-related type of Kaposi's sarcoma or endemic KS, it is likely that their entire body would have a propensity to develop such lesions. It is unfortunate that in such instances they can only avail conventional treatment to treat their condition as well as make the appearance of the lesions better, but this often proves to be inadequate.

The good news is that with advancements made in antiretroviral treatment, the incidences of developing endemic or HIV/ AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma have actually witnessed a sharp decline. Nevertheless, any patient infected by HIV or having AIDS and is not taking any medication to cure his/ her condition, they face about 20 per cent risk or chances of developing Kaposi's sarcoma.

Taking into account the fact that with the development of innovative antiretroviral remedies, there has been a remarkable decline, up to 80 per cent from what has been some years back, in the incidences of Kaposi's sarcoma among those suffering from HIV as well as AIDS, one needs to pursue a prescribed treatment schedule using drugs that deal with HIV with a view to prevent developing Kaposi's sarcoma as well as various different problems related to this syndrome.

Kaposi's sarcoma is attributable to human herpes virus, also known as HHV-8, and provided you have already developed this form of skin cancer or you are very susceptible to developing this disease, it is essential for you to make all efforts to restrict yourself from coming in contact with this pathogen. It is worth mentioning here that compared to the common people, individuals who have had an organ transplant and are already coping with HIV and AIDS, in addition to the Italians as well as Jews from Eastern Europe are very susceptible to developing Kaposi's sarcoma.

While the exact manner in which HHV-8 spreads is yet to be ascertained, till date physicians are aware of the fact that a mere two per cent of the common populace are carriers of this virus. In comparison to this, approximately 18 per cent of men who are homosexual as well as HIV-negative and as much as 40 to 50 per cent of men who are gay and HIV-positive carry this virus. Hence, it is extremely possible that men who engage in sex with other men comprise a major risk factor for transmitting the HHV-8.

In the event of the Kaposi's sarcoma patient being a male who engages in same sex or homosexual activities, it is mandatory that they always practice safe sex. In fact, it is much easy to adopt a few precautionary measures than having to deal with carcinogenic skin lesions.


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