Types of AIDS-Related Cancer

AIDS-related cancer is a group of cancers that are frequently diagnosed in people with HIV/AIDS. People who do not have HIV or AIDS can certainly develop these types of cancers, however, they are only referred as HIV/AIDS-related cancers when diagnosed in someone with HIV or AIDS.

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Cancers that are more prevalent among those with HIV/AIDS include:

Kaposi's sarcoma, lymphoma, and invasive cervical cancer are considered to be AIDS-defining illnesses, a group of conditions and diseases that indicate advanced HIV or the onset of AIDS.


AIDS-related cancer is not directly caused by the AIDS virus, but a combination of factors. It is believed that the weakened immune system caused by the virus makes people more vulnerable to developing cancer. Risk factors like smoking, drinking, and genetics that affect those without AIDS may be increased in those with HIV/AIDS. Research is being conducted to understand the connection between AIDS and cancer.

Typically, Kaposi's sarcoma and lymphoma are the most common types of cancer diagnosed in people with AIDS. As the use of antiretroviral treatment has increased, there has been a decline in these types of cancer among people with AIDS. As treatment has prolonged the lives of people with AIDS, this longevity has also allowed more time to develop other types of cancer.


Symptoms of HIV/AIDS-related cancer vary among the different types of cancer. All symptoms experienced should be reported to the primary physician for evaluation.


How cancer is diagnosed depends on what type of cancer is suspected. Lab tests, imaging tests, biopsies, and endoscopies are all methods of diagnosing many types of cancer.


Treatment for HIV/AIDS-related cancer varied based on the type of cancer diagnosed. Common methods of treating cancer include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.

People with HIV/AIDS face a unique challenge in treatment due to already weakened immune systems and low white blood cell counts. These factors can complicate cancer treatment. Often initiating anti-HIV therapy results in better response, too.

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  • "AIDS Related Cancers". Detailed Guide: HIV Infection and AIDS. American Cancer Society.
  • "General Information About Kaposi Sarcoma". Kaposi Sarcoma Treatment (PDQ®). National Cancer Institute.
  • "Related Malignancies, Lymphoma, Kaposi's Sarcoma". HIV.AIDS Information. National Library of Medicine.

By Lisa Fayed
Lisa Fayed is a freelance medical writer, cancer educator and patient advocate.