Local therapy

Localised radiation therapy (radiotherapy) can be used to treat KS lesions in the mouth or throat, painful skin lesions or lesions that are causing blockages in the lymph nodes of the face, arms and legs. It is also effective for lesions on the eyelids or the white of the eye. Radiotherapy kills the over-active tumour cells with a series of low doses of radiation, leaving the rest of the body untouched. Side-effects can include short-term reddening of the skin, hair loss and, in the mouth, inflammation of the mucous membranes (mucositis), which can sometimes be severe or even life-threatening. The lesions usually leave a scar, like a mole, where pigmentation remains in the skin. This is particularly common when long-standing lesions are treated.

Alternatively, individual skin lesions can be injected with chemotherapy drugs such as diluted vinblastine (Velbe) or vincristine (Oncovin), which causes the lesion to swell up painfully but then shrink or disappear, leaving a scar. Other approaches to treating skin lesions including removing them surgically or freezing them with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy). Cryotherapy is usually reserved for areas of thin skin such as the face and the genitals, and is most successful if the KS lesion is flat, not nodular and relatively small.