July represents sarcoma cancer awareness month, a cancer I believe to be less publicly known. There are several types of sarcoma, but Kaposi sarcoma (KS) is the dominant form. This cancer develops from the cells that line lymph or blood vessels, and typically appears as tumors on the skin or mouth. These tumors can also form in other areas such as lymph nodes, lungs, or the digestive tract. The abnormal cells form purple, red, or brown blotches or tumors on the skin, typically on the legs or face. KS can become life threatening when these lesions form in the lungs, liver, or digestive tract.
The most common type of KS in the United States is epidemic or AIDS-related KS. The AIDS virus starts out as HIV, and only escalates when HIV has severely damaged the immune system, which can result in medical complications such as KS. The diagnosis of KS is an “AIDS defining” illness, which confirms a patient has officially progressed from HIV-positive, to AIDS virus. The most effective treatment available for HIV is known as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). This treatment can be effective at preventing advanced KS from developing.
Other types of KS are also prevalent; Classic KS occurs mainly in older people of Mediterranean, Eastern European, and Middle Eastern heritage. This disease is more common in men than in women. Typically lesions will be seen on the legs, ankles, or the soles of the feet. Older adults often have weakened immune systems, which paired with a diagnosis of the Kaposi sarcoma associated herpes virus (KSHV) could lead to the development of KS. Additionally, there is a type of KS known as endemic KS, or African KS, which occurs in people living in Equatorial Africa. This is due to other health factors found in Africa that may weaken the immune system such as malaria, other chronic infections, and malnutrition. This disease affects a broader group of people that includes children and women, which other forms do not find. When found in children, KS usually affects the lymph nodes and other organs and can progress quickly. Endemic KS used to be the most common type of KS in Africa, however when AIDS began to spread, the epidemic type became more commonly seen.
This information is courtesy of cancer.org. For more information please visit our website.
This is an ongoing series of columns dedicated to informing the Marco Island community about the American Cancer Society, the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health concern by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service. The Marco Island American Cancer Society office is located at 583 Tallwood St., Suite 101 and is open daily from 9 AM-5 PM. For more information about volunteering or any of the events mentioned in this column please contact Sue Olszak or Lisa Honig at 239-642-8800 ext. 3890.