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Signs and Symptoms of Kaposi Sarcoma

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Kaposi sarcoma (KS) usually appears first as spots (called lesions) on the skin. The lesions can be purple, red, or brown. KS lesions can be flat and not raised above the surrounding skin (called patches), flat but slightly raised (called plaques), or bumps (called nodules). The skin lesions of KS most often develop on the legs or face, but they can also appear in other areas. Lesions on the legs or in the groin area can sometimes block the flow of fluid out of the legs. This can lead to painful swelling in the legs and feet.

KS lesions can also develop on mucous membranes (the inner linings of certain parts of the body) such as inside the mouth and throat and on the outside of the eye and inner part of the eyelids. The lesions are usually not painful or itchy.

KS lesions can also sometimes appear in other parts of the body. Lesions in the lungs might block part of an airway and cause shortness of breath. Lesions that develop in the stomach and intestines can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Sometimes KS lesions bleed. If the lesions are in the lung, it can cause you to cough up blood and lead to shortness of breath. If the lesions are in the stomach or intestines, it can cause bowel movements to become black and tarry or bloody. Bleeding from lesions in the stomach and intestines can be so slow that blood isn’t visible in the stool, but over time the blood loss can lead to low red blood cell counts (anemia). This can cause symptoms like tiredness and shortness of breath.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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Last Revised: April 19, 2018

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