HIV/AIDS-Related Cancer: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Lineagotica Editorial Board, 07/2017

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. Use the menu to see other pages.

People with an HIV/AIDS-related cancer may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with an HIV/AIDS-related cancer do not have any of these changes. Or, the cause of a symptom may be a different medical condition that is not cancer.

Kaposi sarcoma

  • Slightly elevated purple, pink, brown, or red blotches or bumps in the mouth and/or throat or anywhere on the skin, most commonly on the upper body and face.

  • Lymphedema, which is swelling caused by blockage of the lymphatic system, often in an arm or leg

  • Unexplained cough or chest pain

  • Unexplained stomach or intestinal pain

  • Diarrhea and/or blockage of the digestive tract, caused by Kaposi sarcoma lesions that have developed in the gastrointestinal system

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

The symptoms of NHL depend on where the cancer began and the organ that is involved.

General symptoms:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the abdomen, groin, neck, or underarms

  • Enlarged spleen or liver

  • Fever that cannot be explained by an infection or other illness

  • Weight loss with no known cause

  • Sweating and chills

  • Fatigue

Examples of symptoms related to tumor location:

  • A tumor in the abdomen can cause a stretched belly or pain in the back or abdomen.

  • A tumor in the center of the chest can press on the windpipe and cause coughing, chest pain, difficulty breathing, or other respiratory problems.

  • Bloody spots or light bleeding between or following menstrual periods

Cervical cancer

  • Menstrual bleeding that is longer and heavier than usual

  • Bleeding after sexual intercourse, douching, or a pelvic examination

  • Pain during sexual intercourse

  • Bleeding after menopause

  • Increased vaginal discharge

If you are concerned about any changes you experience, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help figure out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about the symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. You may use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.