Kaposi Sarcoma

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Survival of patients with Kaposi sarcoma

Survival rates are often used by doctors as a standard way of discussing a person’s prognosis (outlook). Some patients with Kaposi sarcoma (KS) may want to know the survival statistics for people in similar situations, while others may not find the numbers helpful, or may even not want to know them. If you decide that you do not want to read them, skip to the next section.

The 5-year survival rate refers to the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after their cancer is diagnosed. Of course, many people live much longer than 5 years.

Five-year relative survival rates assume that some people will die of other causes and compare the observed survival with that expected for people without the cancer. This is a better way to see the impact of the cancer on survival.

In order to get 5-year survival rates, doctors have to look at people who were treated at least 5 years ago. Improvements in treatment since then may result in a more favorable outlook for people now being diagnosed with KS.

Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they cannot predict what will happen in any particular person’s case. Many factors affect a person’s outlook, such as where the KS is in the body, the person’s age and general health, how well their immune system functions, and their response to highly active antiretroviral therapy. Your doctor can tell you how the numbers below apply to you, as he or she is familiar with your particular situation.

As treatment of the HIV infection continues to improve, so does the outlook for people with KS. It takes time to see the effect of the most up-to-date treatment on survival rates, since they are based on patients first diagnosed many years ago. Early in the AIDS epidemic, the outlook for patients with KS was grim, with less than 10% of patients surviving at least 5 years after diagnosis. This has improved over time, with the most recent data from the National Cancer Institute’s SEER program showing an overall 5-year relative survival of about 72%. The cause of death for people with KS is not always the KS. Often, people with KS die from diseases related to HIV and AIDS, and not the KS itself.

Research has shown that people who are in good risk groups in the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) system have better survival rates than those who are in the poor risk group.


Last Medical Review: 08/08/2014
Last Revised: 08/19/2014