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Kaposis Sarcoma

Overview :

Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) was once a very rare form of cancer, primarily affecting elderly men of Mediterranean and eastern European background, until the 1980s, when it began to appear among AIDS patients. It manifests in four distinct forms. The first form, called classic KS, was described by the Austrian dermatologist Moricz Kaposi more than a century ago. Classic KS usually affects older men of Mediterranean or eastern European backgrounds by producing tumors on the lower legs. Though at times painful and disfiguring, they generally are not life-threatening. The second form of the disease, African endemic KS, primarily affects boys and men. It can appear as classic KS, or in a more deadly form that quickly spreads to tissues below the skin, the bones and lymph system, leading to death within a few years of diagnosis. Another form of KS, iatrogenic KS, is observed in kidney and liver transplant patients who take immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection of their organ transplant. Iatrogenic KS usually reverses after the immunosuppressive drug is stopped. The fourth form of KS, AIDS-related KS, emerged as one of the first illnesses observed among those with AIDS. Unlike classic KS, AIDS-related KS tumors generally appear on the upper body, including the head, neck, and back. The tumors also can appear on the soft palate and gum areas of the mouth. In more advanced cases, they can be found in the stomach and intestines, the lymph nodes, and the lungs.

Incidence of Kaposi's sarcoma has been reported as high as 20% in homosexual men who have HIV, 3% in heterosexual intravenous drug users, 3% in women and children, 3% in transfusion recipients, and 1% in hemophiliacs. Once regarded as only a defining illness for AIDS, KS has proven to be a progressive, fatal disease on its own, especially when the disease becomes systemic. Yet involvement throughout the body is not the only factor in patient mortality. Research in 2000 found that patients with KS in oral mucosa had a higher risk of death than those with KS appearing only on the skin.

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