The different types of Kaposi sarcoma are treated in different ways, and the choice of treatment also depends on the extent of the disease and the patient's other medical problems.
In classic Kaposi sarcoma, individual small tumors are usually treated with radiation or removed surgically. Some patients may need to have surgery several times because new patches of Kaposi sarcoma may appear after the original ones were removed. If the disease is widespread, which rarely happens, radiation therapy or chemotherapy can be used.
In organ transplant patients who develop Kaposi sarcoma, usually the most effective treatment is to switch from the commonly used anti-rejection drug cyclosporine to a different anti-rejection drug, sirolimus. Sirolimus will usually cause Kaposi sarcoma patches to regress. In transplant recipients, Kaposi sarcoma skin patches can also be treated with radiation therapy.
In AIDS-related Kaposi sarcoma, the most important part of treatment is to use modern drugs to treat the AIDS, thereby improving the functioning of the immune system. A variety of different techniques can also be used to treat the cancer itself, including intralesional chemotherapy, which involves injecting a chemotherapy drug directly into the tumor; radiation therapy; and systemic chemotherapy (conventional chemotherapy in which the drug circulates through the bloodstream). The antiviral drug foscarnet (brand name Foscavir) also may be helpful in treating Kaposi sarcoma in AIDS patients, and biological treatment with interferons has also been used successfully in some cases.
It is important to realize, though, that successful treatment of Kaposi sarcoma using any of these types of therapy does not improve an AIDS patient's chances of survival. The patient's overall outlook depends on how well the immune system is functioning and whether treatment with anti-HIV drugs is working well.
Since most cases of Kaposi sarcoma occur in people who are HIV-positive, preventing HIV infection is the most important way to prevent this cancer.
Most HIV infections are sexually transmitted. So are most infections with the virus that causes Kaposi sarcoma. Both types of infections can be prevented by not having unprotected sex with infected partners. It is generally recommended that everyone who is not currently in a monogamous relationship in which both partners are known to be HIV-negative should use a condom during any sexual contact. This precaution reduces the risk of all sexually transmitted infections, including both HIV infection and infection with the virus that causes Kaposi sarcoma.