Kaposi Sarcoma: Your Chances of Recovery (Prognosis)

March 21, 2017

Kaposi Sarcoma: Your Chances of Recovery (Prognosis)

What is a prognosis?

Prognosis is the word your healthcare team may use to describe your likely outcome from cancer and cancer treatment. A prognosis is a calculated guess. It’s a question many people have when they learn they have cancer.

Making a choice

The decision to ask about your prognosis is a personal one. It’s up to you to decide how much you want to know. Some people find it easier to cope and plan ahead when they know their prognosis and the statistics for how well a treatment might work. Other people find statistics confusing and frightening. Or they might think statistics are too general to be useful.

A doctor who is most familiar with your health is in the best position to discuss your prognosis with you and explain what the statistics may mean in your case. At the same time, you should keep in mind that your prognosis can change. Cancer and cancer treatment outcomes are hard to predict. For instance, a favorable prognosis (which means you’re likely going to do well) can change if the cancer spreads to key organs or doesn’t respond to treatment. An unfavorable prognosis can change, too. This can happen if treatment shrinks and controls the cancer so it doesn’t grow or spread.

What goes into a prognosis?

When figuring out your prognosis, your doctor will consider all the things that could affect the cancer and its treatment. Your doctor will look at risk estimates for the type of cancer you have and other factors. These estimates are based on what results researchers have seen over many years in other people in similar situations.

If your cancer is likely to respond well to treatment, your doctor will say you have a favorable prognosis. If your cancer is likely to be hard to control, your prognosis may be less favorable. It’s important to keep in mind that a prognosis states what’s likely or probable. It is not a prediction of what will definitely happen. No doctor can be fully certain about an outcome.

Your prognosis depends mainly on:

  • The type and location of your cancer

  • The stage (extent) of the cancer

  • Your age and overall health (especially how well your immune system is working)

  • Your treatment decisions

  • How well your cancer responds to treatment

Understanding survival rates

Survival rates show what portion of people live for a certain length of time after being told they have cancer. The rates are grouped for people with certain types of cancer (and sometimes other factors). Many times, the numbers used refer to the 5-year survival rate. That’s how many people are living 5 years after diagnosis. The survival rate includes:

  • People who are cancer-free

  • People who still have signs of cancer (These people may or may not be getting treatment for their cancer.)

What is the survival rate for Kaposi sarcoma?

The overall 5-year survival rate for people with Kaposi sarcoma (KS) is about 74%. This number includes people with all types of KS, although it's important to keep in mind that AIDS-related KS is the most common type in the United States.

The survival rate for KS has improved a great deal in the last couple of decades as doctors have learned how to treat AIDS more effectively. Treatment can help keep the immune system strong and keep KS under better control. 

This number above is a relative survival rate, which means it is adjusted to account for the fact that some people with Kaposi sarcoma may die from other causes. In fact, many people with KS die from other diseases related to having HIV/AIDS, and not the KS itself.

Talk with your healthcare provider

You can ask your healthcare provider about survival rates and what you might expect. But remember that statistics are based on large groups of people. They can’t be used to say what will happen to you. No two people are exactly alike. Treatment and how well people respond to treatment vary.



March 21, 2017


Kaposi Sarcoma, National Cancer Institute

Reviewed By:  

Alteri, Rick, MD,Levin, Mark, MD