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Burkitt lymphoma

Definition

Burkitt lymphoma is a very fast growing form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Alternative Names

B-cell lymphoma; High-grade B-cell lymphoma

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Burkitt lymphoma was first discovered in children in certain parts of Africa, but it also occurs in the United States.

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

Burkitt lymphoma is most often seen in males.

Symptoms

Burkitt lymphoma may first be noticed as a swelling of the lymph nodes (glands) in the neck, groin, or under the arm. These swollen lymph nodes are often painless, but can grow very rapidly.

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

Symptoms include:

  • Lymph nodes that grow together to form a lump
  • Nontender lymph nodes
  • Rapid growth of the lymph nodes
  • Unexplained swollen lymph nodes

Signs and tests

Treatment

Chemotherapy is used to treat this type of cancer. Commonly used medicines include prednisone, cyclophosphamide, ifosfamide, vincristine, cytarabine, doxorubicin, methotrexate, and etoposide.

Expectations (prognosis)

More than half of those with Burkitt lymphoma can be cured with intensive chemotherapy. The cure rate may be lower if the cancer spreads to the bone marrow or spinal fluid.

Complications

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of Burkitt lymphoma.

References

Bierman PJ, Harris N, Armitage JO. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 196.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Clinical practice guidelines in oncology. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. v.1.2010.


Review Date: 9/6/2010
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and James R. Mason, MD, Oncologist, Director, Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program and Stem Cell Processing Lab, Scripps Clinic, Torrey Pines, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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