Burkitt’S Lymphoma

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Burkitt lymphoma is a form of cancer that primarily affects children living incertain areas of Africa. Burkitt lymphoma is also found in North America, but it is rare.Adults can also be affected.

What is going on in the body?

Burkitt lymphoma occurs when a specialized white blood cell called theB-lymphocyte undergoes cancerous changes. The cells begin to grow and multiply outof control. The cancerous cells form tumors. Burkitt lymphoma is aggressive. This means that once itdevelops, it can grow quickly.

There are two types of Burkitt lymphoma: the African form and the NorthAmerican form. In the African form, tumors form under the jaw and in the abdomen. It isassociated with an infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. This is a common virus, andmost people recover from it. However, in African children, Epstein-Barr virus causescells to turn cancerous. No one is sure why. One theory is that children who have hadmalaria, which is common in Africa, have weakened immune systems. This may make their bodies more likely torespond this way to an Epstein-Barr virus infection.

The North American form of Burkitt lymphoma affects the bone marrow.Epstein-Barr virus is not a factor in this form of the disease. In North America,Epstein-Barr infections are associated with mononucleosis.

What are the causes and risks of the disease?

The exact cause of Burkitt lymphoma is unknown. Burkitt lymphomaseems to happen most often in persons who first have had a condition that weakenstheir immune systems, such as malaria orAIDS.Then, when these people come down with Epstein-Barr virus, Burkitt lymphoma occurs.

Symptoms & Signs

What are the signs and symptoms of the disease?

Symptoms of Burkitt lymphoma in Africa include:

  • extreme fatigue
  • swelling of lymph nodes around the jaw
  • swelling of lymph nodes in the abdomen
  • unexplained weight loss
  • Symptoms of Burkitt lymphoma in North America include:

  • being unable to fight infections. This is because the bone marrow undergoescancerous changes and is unable to make cells to fight infection.
  • fatigue
  • weight loss
  • Diagnosis & Tests

    How is the disease diagnosed?

    Doctors diagnose the disease by analyzing a sample of cells from the swollentissue in the jaw or abdomen. A piece of the swollen tissue, called abiopsysample, is removed. Special stains and other tests are applied to the tissue. If thesetests show Burkitt lymphoma, then the person will undergo other testing that helps thedoctor figure out the extent of the cancer. This includesCT scansand a bone marrow biopsy.

    Prevention & Expectations

    What can be done to prevent the disease?

    Nothing can be done to prevent this cancer.

    What are the long-term effects of the disease?

    Burkitt lymphoma is an aggressive cancer. Once it appears, thecancerous cells grow very quickly. If it is not treated, Burkitt lymphoma leads to death.

    What are the risks to others?

    There is no risk to others from a person with Burkitt lymphoma or anyother cancer.

    Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the disease?

    Chemotherapy is the primary treatment because the disease is usuallyspread all over the body. Several different types of chemotherapy are given together.The Africa form is the most treatable. Cancer is said to be in remission, with noevidence of disease, when it has been successfully treated. The remission in Burkittlymphoma may be long-lasting.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    The side effects depend on the medicines used to treat the cancer. Aftertreatment is completed, the side effects go away. The most common side effects arenausea,fatigue,and being more likely to develop infections.

    What happens after treatment for the disease?

    After treatment, the person will have to be monitored closely to make surethat the cancer doesn’t come back. It is usually necessary for the person to have close medical followupfor the rest of his or her life.

    How is the disease monitored?

    CT scans,special X-rays, and physical examination are used to monitor the body’s response totreatment. These same tests are also used to check whether the disease has come back.Bloods tests, including a CBC,are used during treatment to monitor for side effects, such as low blood cell amounts.

    Article type: xmedgeneral