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Condition

Burkitt Lymphoma

Condition 101

What is the definition of Burkitt Lymphoma?

Burkitt lymphoma (BL) is a very fast growing form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

What are the alternative names for Burkitt Lymphoma?

B-cell lymphoma; High-grade B-cell lymphoma; Small noncleaved cell lymphoma

What are the causes for Burkitt Lymphoma?

BL was first discovered in children in certain parts of Africa. It also occurs in the United States.

The African type of BL is closely associated with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), the main cause of infectious mononucleosis. The North American form of BL is not linked to EBV.

People with HIV/AIDS have an increased risk for this condition. BL is most often seen in males.

What are the symptoms for Burkitt Lymphoma?

BL may first be noticed as a swelling of the lymph nodes (glands) in the head and neck. These swollen lymph nodes are often painless, but can grow very rapidly.

In the types commonly seen in the United States, the cancer often starts in the belly area (abdomen). The disease can also start in the ovaries, testes, brain, kidneys, liver, and spinal fluid.

Other general symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss

What are the current treatments for Burkitt Lymphoma?

Chemotherapy is used to treat this type of cancer. If the cancer does not respond to chemotherapy alone, a bone marrow transplant may be done.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Burkitt Lymphoma?

More than one half of people with BL can be cured with intensive chemotherapy. The cure rate may be lower if the cancer spreads to the bone marrow or spinal fluid. The outlook is poor if the cancer comes back after a remission or does not go into remission as a result of the first cycle of chemotherapy.

What are the possible complications for Burkitt Lymphoma?

Possible complications of BL include:

  • Complications of treatment
  • Spread of the cancer

When should I contact a medical professional for Burkitt Lymphoma?

Call your provider if you have symptoms of BL.

REFERENCES

Gallagher CJ, Smith M, Shamash J. Malignant disease. In: Kumar P, Clark M, eds. Kumar and Clark's Clinical Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 17.

Gascoyne RD, Siebert R, Connors JM, Kluin PM. Burkitt's lymphoma and its mimics. In: Jaffe ES, Arber DA, Campo E, Harris NL, Quintanilla-Martinez L, eds. Hematopathology. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 24.

National Cancer Institute website. Adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ) – health professional version. www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/hp/adult-nhl-treatment-pdq#section/all. Updated April 20, 2018. Accessed May 7, 2018.

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Lymphatic systemLymphoma, malignant - CT scan