Kaposi's sarcoma is a type of cancer that attacks the skin and the lining of the mouth as well as the throat and nose. It can also spread to the organs.
Often, it is associated with AIDS, although it can occur in individuals who do not have AIDS or HIV. Its association with AIDS is probably due to the fact that it develops rather rapidly in those suffering from the disease.
Learn to Identify Kaposi's Sarcoma
- Examine your skin. Look for small growths that are brown, purple or reddish. You may find them on the face or lower extremities, although they can occur anywhere on the body.
- Have your dentist check your mouth periodically, as the lesions are often initially discovered inside the mouth.
- Notice any sore areas of your mouth. Lesions in the mouth may feel tender, although those on the roof of the mouth are usually present without any obvious symptoms. You may also notice tenderness with lesions that develop in the throat.
- Identify any problems you have with eating. Sometimes Kaposi's sarcoma lesions can make simple tasks like chewing and swallowing uncomfortable.
- Note whether or not you are experiencing diarrhea. In some cases, Kaposi's sarcoma causes problems with the normal digestive process, interfering with the absorption of nutrition from the foods you consume. This eventually causes diarrhea.
- Watch for constipation, as Kaposi's sarcoma lesions may actually block the flow of waste from the body.
- Take note of any unexplained abdominal pain you experience. Sometimes the lesions develop in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and cause pain there as well as bleeding. However, lesions in this area typically do not cause symptoms.
- Be on the lookout for breathing issues, such as shortness of breath, which may be caused by lesions in the lungs. Symptoms like unexplained coughing, particularly with bloody sputum, and fever may also help you identify the condition. In some cases, merely taking a breath may be accompanied by a feeling of soreness.
- Look for signs of lymphedema. This is a condition marked by swelling due to lymph node or vessel obstruction. Swelling may be present even if you cannot see lesions on the skin and may affect the groin, legs, feet, genital area and the area around the eyes.
- See a doctor for a definitive diagnosis of Kaposi's sarcoma, as the symptoms you notice may be similar to those of other conditions. You won't know for sure whether you have this form of cancer without proper testing. In addition to a physical exam, a doctor may perform biopsies, x-rays, endoscopies and bronchoscopies to identify Kaposi's sarcoma.
Don't assume you have AIDS or are HIV positive just because you have symptoms of Kaposi's sarcoma. You could have another condition altogether or have Kaposi's sarcoma lesions that are unrelated to AIDS.