Learn about Burkitt’s lymphoma and find information about symptoms and treatment of it. Burkitt’s lymphoma is a rare and aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer of the lymphatic system, which helps body fight infections. Burkitt’s lymphoma is associated with impaired immunity and is rapidly fatal if left untreated.
Major signs of Burkitt lymphoma include a soft-tissue mass associated with the involvement of the jaw or other facial bones, rapidly enlarged cervical lymph nodes, abdominal masses, and ascites. Less common presentations of Burkitt lymphoma (BL) include an epidural mass, skin nodules, central nervous system (CNS) symptoms, and bone marrow involvement.
The endemic form of Burkitt lymphoma (eBL) is most commonly seen in patients in equatorial Africa, with jaw and facial bone (orbit) involvement occurring in more than 50% of cases. The sporadic forms (sBL) most often present with abdominal tumors with bone marrow involvement. Patients most commonly present with abdominal tumors that cause swelling and pain in the affected area. Approximately 90% of patients with sBL and 50% of patients with eBL have abdominal masses upon presentation.
Burkitt lymphoma accounts for only 1% of adult lymphoma, but up to 30% of childhood non-Hodgkin lymphomas. The average age of children diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma is between 5 and 10 years of age, while adults are usually diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 50 years. It is 4 times more common in men than in women. The outlook is often worse in adults over age 40, but treatment for adults has improved in recent years. The outlook is poor in people who have HIV or AIDS. It’s significantly better in people whose cancer hasn’t spread.
The Dana-Farber/Children Hospital program is part of the Children’s Oncology Group, a national group of pediatric oncologists whose work includes investigational treatments for newly diagnosed patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and those who experience a relapse. Newer methods of treatment include bone marrow or stem cell transplantation and monoclonal antibodies (antibodies produced by cloned mouse cells grown in a laboratory). Chemotherapy is the mainstay of treatment for Burkitt lymphoma. Administer IV antibiotics for neutropenic fevers, and growth factors (granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor [GM-CSF] or granulocyte colony-stimulating factor [G-CSF]) to help decrease the duration of neutropenia. Surgery or radiation therapy has no role in the treatment of Burkitt lymphoma.
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. It is one of the fastest growing lymphomas. It is named after Dennis Burkitt who first described this kind of tumor in children whilst working as a surgeon in the tropical regions of Africa in 1958. There are three types; endemic, sporadic and immunodeficiency-associated. Burkitt’s lymphoma is a fast-growing type of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma that occurs most often in children and young adults. The disease may affect the jaw, central nervous system, bowel, kidneys, ovaries, or other organs.
Burkitt’s lymphoma Symptoms
The symptoms of Burkitt’s lymphoma often come on over just a few weeks because the lymphoma cells are dividing so quickly. Some of the symptoms of Burkitt’s lymphoma are:
- Swelling of one or more groups of lymph nodes in different parts of your body.
- Abdominal pain, sickness and diarrhea. Burkitt’s lymphoma commonly affects the bowel
- a very swollen abdomen caused by a collection of fluid within your abdomen (called ascites)
- more serious bowel problems such as bowel obstruction or bleeding from your bowel
- lymphoma in an extra nodal site (outside the lymphatic system) this is common, involving organs such as the liver, kidneys, ovaries and breasts symptoms will depend on the site
- drenching sweats, especially at night
- tiredness or fatigue
- fever and flu-like symptoms
- loss of appetite and weight loss
- distortion of facial bones
- enlarged tonsils
- low blood counts due to lymphoma in the bone marrow
- anemia causing shortness of breath and tiredness
- low platelets, making you more likely to bleed or bruise very easily
- lymphoma cells seen on a blood sample when looked at under the microscope
- lymphoma in your brain and spinal cord (known as your ‘central nervous system’ or CNS)
- inability to concentrate
Burkitt’s lymphoma Treatments
Burkitt’s lymphoma is usually treated with combination chemotherapy. Chemotherapy agents used in the treatment of Burkitt’s lymphoma include:
- Cytarabine (Cytosar-U, Tarabine PFS)
- Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan)
- Doxorubicin (Adriamycin)
- Rituximab (Rituxan)
Other treatments for Burkitt’s lymphoma include immunotherapy, bone-marrow transplants, stem-cell transplant, surgery to remove the tumor, and radio therapy.
Burkitt’s lymphoma Survival Rate
In a retrospective analysis, a 3-year survival rate of 74% is achieved in a series of 65 adult patients who were treated with the LMB pediatric protocols. The median age is reported as 47 years (range, 28-69 y), and 70% of the patients presented with bulky advanced disease (stage II, III, or IV), with 60% of patients having two or more extra nodal sites of lymphoma involvement.