- How is Kaposi sarcoma treated?
- Treating immune deficiency and related infections in people with Kaposi sarcoma
- Local therapy for Kaposi sarcoma
- Radiation therapy for Kaposi sarcoma
- Chemotherapy for Kaposi sarcoma
- Biologic therapy (immunotherapy) for Kaposi sarcoma
- General considerations in the treatment of Kaposi sarcoma
How is Kaposi sarcoma treated?
General treatment information
Treatment for Kaposi sarcoma (KS) is more effective than it was a couple of decades ago. Doctors now better understand what causes KS and have much more experience treating KS than they did when this disease was quite rare. Many clinical trials have compared different approaches to treatment.
Choices about the best treatment options for each patient are based on the function of the immune system as well as the number, location, and size of the KS lesions. The patient’s general health is also a major factor. The presence and severity of other serious health problems can make some treatments a poor choice.
For patients with immune system problems, the most important treatment is keeping the immune system healthy and any related infections under control. Some of the other treatments used for KS are:
In some patients, 2 or more of these treatments are used together.
Based on your options, you may have different types of doctors on your treatment team. These doctors may include:
- An infectious disease specialist: a doctor who treats infectious diseases such as HIV and AIDS.
- A dermatologist: a doctor who treats diseases of the skin
- A radiation oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy.
- A medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy.
Many other specialists may be involved in your care as well, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, nutrition specialists, social workers, and other health professionals.
It is important to discuss all of your treatment options as well as their possible side effects with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. If time permits, it is often a good idea to seek a second opinion. A second opinion can provide more information and help you feel confident about your chosen treatment plan.
Thinking about taking part in a clinical trial
Clinical trials are carefully controlled research studies that are done to get a closer look at promising new treatments or procedures. Clinical trials are one way to get state-of-the art cancer treatment. In some cases they may be the only way to get access to newer treatments. They are also the best way for doctors to learn better methods to treat cancer. Still, they are not right for everyone.
If you would like to learn more about clinical trials that might be right for you, start by asking your doctor if your clinic or hospital conducts clinical trials. You can also call our clinical trials matching service at 1-800-303-5691 for a list of studies that meet your medical needs, or see the Clinical Trials section to learn more.
Considering complementary and alternative methods
You may hear about alternative or complementary methods that your doctor hasn’t mentioned to treat your cancer or relieve symptoms. These methods can include vitamins, herbs, and special diets, or other methods such as acupuncture or massage, to name a few.
Complementary methods refer to treatments that are used along with your regular medical care. Alternative treatments are used instead of a doctor’s medical treatment. Although some of these methods might be helpful in relieving symptoms or helping you feel better, many have not been proven to work. Some might even be dangerous.
Be sure to talk to your cancer care team about any method you are thinking about using. They can help you learn what is known (or not known) about the method, which can help you make an informed decision. See the Complementary and Alternative Medicine section to learn more.
Help getting through cancer treatment
Your cancer care team will be your first source of information and support, but there are other resources for help when you need it. Hospital- or clinic-based support services are an important part of your care. These might include nursing or social work services, financial aid, nutritional advice, rehab, or spiritual help.
The American Cancer Society also has programs and services – including rides to treatment, lodging, support groups, and more – to help you get through treatment. Call our National Cancer Information Center at 1-800-227-2345 and speak with one of our trained specialists on call 24 hours a day, every day.
Last Medical Review: 08/08/2014
Last Revised: 02/09/2016