Burkitt lymphoma, sometimes referred to as Burkitt’s tumor or malignant lymphoma, Burkitt’s type, is a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma affecting the B-cells of the lymphatic system mostly in children.
It was first described by a British surgeon named Dennis Burkitt in 1956. He was working in Central Africa when he first documented this peculiar type of lymphoma; to this day, it is still present in this region of the African continent.
Glandular fevers and/or infectious mononucleosis (all members of the Eptstein-Barr virus umbrella) are generally the reason that B-lymphocytes develop into the cancerous cells of Burkitt lumphoma.These infections rarely cause any long-term complications, but African children with chronic malaria have reduced resistance to the Epstein-Barr virus. Thus, wherever malaria is endemic, Burkitt lymphoma cases are usually more prevalent.
In Burkitt lymphoma cases observed in the United States and Great Britain, where malaria is uncommon and far from endemic, the cause is unknown. No genetic link to the disease has been established, and cases in the Western World are considered to be sporadic.
Research also indicates that the AIDS virus might influence the development of Burkitt lymphoma.
Burkitt Lymphoma Symptoms and Features
In the US and UK, the most common indicator of Burkitt lymphoma is abdominal swelling. In most of the African cases, though, the jawbone is affected, resulting in swelling and bleeding.
The eyes, tonsils, breasts, thyroid, kidneys, ovaries, and other organs can all be affected by this lymphoma, yielding a wide array of symptoms. Furthermore, Burkitt lymphoma can invade the nervous system, causing vision anomalies, sensorial abnormalities, and even paralysis.
Common symptoms include:
- Night Sweats
- Loss of Appetite
- Unexplainable High Core Body Temperatures
- Weight Loss
Burkitt Lymphoma Diagnosis
Diagnosis is dependent on the removal of an enlarged lymph node to be examined under a microscope. This procedure is known as biopsy. This is a common operation that is usually performed while the patient is under local or general anaesthetic. Computed tomography (CT scan) and/or magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) are also usually employed to give the physician and patient a clearer understanding of the lymphoma’s location, size, rate of metastasis, and other features.
A physician may also recommend a lumbar puncture, various blood tests, bone marrow sampling, and/or x-ray testing in order to ascertain a comprehensive understanding of the patient’s condition. The more in-depth the physician’s understanding of the lymphoma, the more appropriately he or she can treat the disease.
Burkitt Lymphoma Treatment
This cancer is typically treated with chemotherapy. Like all cancers, Burkitt lymphoma’s response to the chemo treatment depends on when the disease is diagnosed. If the disease is diagnosed early in its development, it will respond better to chemotherapy. Fast growing lymphomas, such as Burkitt lymphoma, respond much better to chemo than their slow growing counterparts.
However, if cancerous cells react too quickly to chemotherapy, the result could be a phenomenon known as tumor lysis syndrome. This syndrome can affect the patient with a number of metabolic complications brought on by large numbers of dying cancer cells and the byproducts that they create.
Other methods of treating the disease include bone marrow transplantation, radiotherapy, immunotherapy, and surgical resection of the tumor.
Burkitt Lymphoma Prognosis
Intensive chemotherapy treatment is curative in more than 50% of Burkitt lymphoma cases. Furthermore, more than 80% of children with Burkitt lymphoma in the United States are cured and cancer-free across a three year period of time. When the cancer spreads to the bone marrow and/or the spinal fluid, the cure rate is considerably reduced. Like all cancers, prognosis is generally better when the cancer is detected early.