If treatment for Kaposi sarcoma stops working
Treatment for Kaposi sarcoma (KS) can often help control the disease or even make the lesions go away, but there is no guarantee that KS will not come back. It is important to be aware that there is always a chance that KS lesions will return, either at the original site or in other places on the skin or internal organs. Advanced KS usually means a person has advanced AIDS, with all its problems. Still, treatment for KS is very effective at taking care of the symptoms of the disease. It can shrink or get rid of bulky, painful lesions and can relieve swelling. It can also reduce problems that arise when tumors affect the lungs or gastrointestinal tract. Treatment for KS can bring about important improvements in your quality of life.
If cancer keeps growing or comes back after one kind of treatment, it is possible that another treatment plan might at least shrink it enough to help you live longer and feel better. But when a person has tried many different treatments and the cancer is not getting any better, it tends to become resistant to all treatment. If this happens, it’s important to weigh the possible limited benefits of a new treatment against the possible downsides. Everyone has their own way of looking at this.
This is likely to be the hardest part of your battle with cancer — when you have been through many medical treatments and nothing’s working anymore. Your doctor may offer you new options, but at some point you might need to consider that treatment is not likely to improve your health or change your outcome or survival.
If you want to continue to get treatment for as long as you can, you need to think about the odds of treatment having any benefit and how this compares to the possible risks and side effects. In many cases, your doctor can estimate how likely it is the cancer will respond to treatment you are considering. For instance, the doctor may say that more treatment might have about a 1 in 100 chance of working. Some people are still tempted to try this. But it is important to think about and understand your reasons for choosing this plan.
No matter what you decide to do, you need to feel as good as you can. Make sure you are asking for and getting treatment for any symptoms you might have, such as nausea or pain. This type of treatment is called palliative care.
Palliative care helps relieve symptoms, but is not expected to cure the disease. It can be given along with cancer treatment, or can even be a cancer treatment. The difference is its purpose — the main goal of palliative care is to improve the quality of your life, or help you feel as good as you can for as long as you can. Sometimes this means using drugs to help with symptoms like pain or nausea. Sometimes, though, the treatments used to control your symptoms are the same as those used to treat cancer. For instance, radiation might be used to help relieve pain caused by the cancer. Or chemo might be used to help shrink a tumor and keep it from blocking the bowels. But this is not the same as treatment to try to cure the cancer.
At some point, you may benefit from hospice care. This is special care that treats the person rather than the disease; it focuses on quality rather than length of life. Most of the time, it is given at home. Your cancer may be causing problems that need to be managed, and hospice focuses on your comfort. You should know that while getting hospice care often means the end of treatments such as chemo and radiation, it doesn’t mean you can’t be treated for the problems caused by your cancer or other health conditions. In hospice the focus of your care is on living life as fully as possible and feeling as well as you can at this difficult time. You can learn more about hospice and this phase of cancer in our documents called Hospice Care and Nearing the End of Life. They can be read online, or call us at 1-800-227-2345 to have free copies mailed to you.
Staying hopeful is important, too. Your hope for a cure may not be as bright, but there is still hope for good times with family and friends — times that are filled with happiness and meaning. Pausing at this time in your cancer treatment gives you a chance to refocus on the most important things in your life. Now is the time to do some things you’ve always wanted to do and to stop doing the things you no longer want to do. Though the cancer may be beyond your control, there are still choices you can make.
Last Medical Review: 02/20/2013
Last Revised: 02/20/2013