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Burkitt Lymphoma

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  Indira nagar, Bengaluru     Feb 9, 2017

   3 min     


Burkitt lymphoma is the fastest growing form of cancer that starts in the immune cells (B-cells). It is cancer that develops from any part of the body.

It is prevalent amongst people from:

  • North Africa
  • Middle East
  • South America
  • Papua New Guinea

Burkitt’s lymphoma is named after the scientist who discovered it, Denis Burkitt in the year 1956. He discovered it in the African children who were infected with malaria and the Epstein-Barr virus.

What causes Burkitt lymphoma?

As said above, the Epstein-Barr virus is the main culprit of Burkitt's lymphoma. Burkitt lymphoma is a form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Here the cancer begins from the immune cells known as the B-cells.

As the Epstein-Barr virus infects the human body, it causes infectious mononucleosis. In Africa (where it was discovered) it was assumed that it was through the malaria infection that the patient (especially children) were more vulnerable to the Epstein-Barr virus. Since malaria weakens the immune system's and alters the response to the infectious Epstein-Barr. The virus on entering the body infects the B-cells and changes it into cancerous cells.

What are the stages of Burkitt lymphoma?

Burkitt lymphoma is mainly divided into four separate stages:

  • Stage I – At this stage, the cancer is confined just to one single site on the body.
  • Stage II – Here the lymphoma has spread to more than one site.
  • Stage III – At this stage, the disease spreads to the lymph nodes or other sites on both sides of the diaphragm.
  • Stage IV – At this stage, the lymphomas are found in the bone marrow or the brain. This is a very critical condition and should be treated with optimum care.

What are the types of Burkitt Lymphoma?

The types are differentiated by the geographic location and the parts of the body that it affects. They are:

1. Sporadic Burkitt Lymphoma

This is only prevalent in Africa.

This type of cancer tends to affect the lower abdomen (small intestine ends, and the large intestine begins).

2. Endemic Burkitt Lymphoma

This type of cancer is prevalent in Africa near the equator.

It affects the small intestine, kidneys, ovaries, and breast may also be involved.

3. Immunodeficiency-Related

This type is associated with immunosuppressive drugs like those used to prevent transplant rejection and to treat HIV and AIDS.

What are the symptoms associated with Burkitt lymphoma?

  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Night Sweats
  • Unexplained fever
  • Digestive problems
  • Diarrhoea

How is Burkitt Lymphoma diagnosed?

If you or your loved ones have an unchecked enlarged lymph node, then please consult a doctor at the earliest since this is the primary symptom of Burkitt lymphoma.

If your healthcare specialist suspects Burkitt lymphoma then he/she will suggest you to go for a biopsy. Here, a sample of the tissue is removed and examined under a microscope for confirmation. Other additional tests are:

  • Chest X-ray
  • HIV test
  • PET or gallium scan
  • Bone marrow biopsy
  • Exam of spinal fluid
  • Tests to measure kidney and liver function
  • Computed tomographic (CT) imaging of the abdomen, chest, and pelvis

Can Burkitt lymphoma be treated?

Burkitt lymphoma is a fast-spreading disease which can spread to the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord which can be fatal to life. Chemotherapy is the most effective medication for the treatment of this disease. The chemotherapy drugs can be injected directly into the cerebrospinal fluid for faster treatment.

Other treatment options are:

  • Monoclonal antibody
  • Steroid therapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Autologous stem cell transplantation

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Tags:  cancer,lymph nodes,

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