Burkitt’s Lymphoma

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor


What is Burkitt’s lymphoma?

Burkitt’s lymphoma is a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in which cancer starts in immune cells called B-cells. Recognized as the fastest growing human tumor, Burkitt’s lymphoma is associated with impaired immunity and is rapidly fatal if left untreated. However, intensive chemotherapy can achieve long-term survival in more than half the people with Burkitt’s lymphoma.

There are three main types of Burkitt’s lymphoma:

  • Endemic: mainly occurs in equatorial Africa. It is the most common malignancy of children in this area. Is associated with chronic malaria and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). It particularly affects the jaw, other facial bone, distal ileum, caecum, ovaries, kidney or breast.
  • Sporadic: occurs outside Africa. Also associated with EBV but to a lesser degree. Most often affects the ileocaecal region and the jaw is less often involved.
  • Immunodeficiency-associated (HIV-Related Lymphoma) usually associated with HIV infection or the use of immunosuppressive drugs.

How common is Burkitt’s lymphoma?

Burkitt’s lymphoma is most common in children living in sub-Saharan Africa area, where it’s related to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and chronic malaria. Burkitt’s lymphoma is also seen elsewhere, including the United States. Outside of Africa, Burkitt’s lymphoma is most likely to occur in people who have a compromised immune system.

However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of Burkitt’s lymphoma?

Burkitt’s lymphoma can cause:

  • Painless, swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpits or groin;
  • Abdominal pain or swelling;
  • Chest pain, coughing or trouble breathing;
  • Fatigue;
  • Fever;
  • Weight loss;
  • Night sweats.

Other symptoms of Burkitt’s lymphoma vary according to type.

  • Sporadic Burkitt’s Lymphoma

The symptoms of sporadic Burkitt’s lymphoma include:

  • Abdominal swelling;
  • Distortion of facial bones;
  • Night sweats;
  • Intestinal obstruction;
  • An enlarged thyroid;
  • Enlarged tonsils.
  • Endemic Burkitt’s Lymphoma

The symptoms of endemic Burkitt’s lymphoma include:

  • Swelling;
  • Distortion of facial bones;
  • A rapid growth of lymph nodes.

The enlarged lymph nodes are non-tender. Tumors can grow extremely quickly, sometimes doubling their size within 18 hours.

  • HIV-Related Lymphoma

The symptoms of HIV-related lymphoma are similar to those of the sporadic type.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes Burkitt’s lymphoma?

Doctors aren’t sure what causes Burkitt’s lymphoma.

Burkitt’s lymphoma occurs when your body produces too many abnormal lymphocytes — a type of white blood cell.

Studies suggest that Burkitt’s lymphoma is the most common childhood cancer in regions where there is a high incidence of malaria, like Africa

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Burkitt’s lymphoma?

In most cases, people diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma don’t have any obvious risk factors, and many people who have risk factors for the disease never develop it. Some factors that may increase the risk of Burkitt’s lymphoma include:

  • Medications

Medication suppresses your immune system. If you’ve had an organ transplant, you’re more susceptible because immunosuppressive therapy has reduced your body’s ability to fight off new illnesses.

  • Infection with certain viruses and bacteria.

Certain viral and bacterial infections appear to increase the risk of Burkitt’s lymphoma. Viruses linked to increased Burkitt’s lymphoma risk include HIV and Epstein-Barr virus. Bacteria linked to an increased risk of Burkitt’s lymphoma include the ulcer-causing Helicobacter pylori.

Certain chemicals, such as those used to kill insects and weeds, may increase your risk of developing Burkitt’s lymphoma. More research is needed to understand the possible link between pesticides and the development of Burkitt’s lymphoma

Diagnosis &treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is Burkitt’s lymphoma diagnosed?

Burkitt’s lymphoma’s diagnosis begins with a medical history and physical examination. A biopsy of tumors then confirms the diagnosis. The bone marrow and central nervous system are often involved. Bone marrow and spinal fluid are usually examined to see how far the cancer has spread.

Burkitt’s lymphoma is staged according to lymph node and organ involvement. The involvement of bone marrow or the central nervous system means you have stage 4. A CT scan and MRI may help pinpoint which organs and lymph nodes are involved How is Burkitt’s lymphoma treated?

Burkitt’s lymphoma is combined with chemotherapy in treatment. Chemotherapy agents used in the treatment of Burkitt’s lymphoma include:

  • Cytarabine ;
  • Cyclophosphamide ;
  • Doxorubicin ;
  • Vincristine ;
  • Methotrexate ;
  • Etoposide.

Chemotherapy drugs are injected directly into the spinal fluid to prevent the cancer from spreading to the central nervous system. This method of injection is referred to as “intrathecal.” Patients who get intensive chemotherapy have the best treatment outcomes.

In countries with limited medical resources, treatment is often less successful. Children with Burkitt’s lymphoma have the best prognosis. The presence of intestinal obstruction requires surgery.

Other treatments for Burkitt’s lymphoma may include intensive chemotherapy in combination with:

  • Rituximab (Rituxan), a monoclonal antibody that sticks to proteins on cancer cells and stimulates the immune system to attack cancer cells.
  • Autologous stem cell transplantation, in which the patient’s stem cells are removed, stored, and returned to the body.
  • Radiation therapy;
  • Steroid therapy.

Lifestyle changes &home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Burkitt’s lymphoma?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with this condition:

  • You should inject vaccine development for EBV.
  • Or you also should inject vaccine development for malaria to prevent Burkitt’s lymphoma.
  • If you think that you have any of the symptoms above mentioned then it is best to get immediate medical attention.
  • Or if you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: December 13, 2016 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019

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