Burkitt's lymphoma is an aggressive B-cell lymphoma that is common in children. In fact, it accounts for 30-40% of childhood lymphomas each year. Its cause is linked to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which is also known as mononucleosis, though not all patients diagnosed with Burkitt's lymphoma have EBV.
Malignant B-cell lymphocytes seen in Burkitt's lymphoma
image by Louis Staudt, NCI
The disease usually affects the bowel, eyes, kidneys, ovaries, breasts, thyroid, jawbone, nervous system, lymph nodes, bone marrow, and/or tonsils.
Diagnosis and Staging of Burkitt's Lymphoma
The most common symptom of Burkitt's lymphoma is abdominal swelling caused by inflammation of the intestines. Loss of appetite, night sweats, weight loss, and fever are other common lymphoma symptoms.
Diagnosis is made via biopsy of affected tissue. Follow-up tests, such as chest X-rays, PET scan, CT scan, ultrasound, and bone marrow biopsy are used for staging. The staging is as follows:
- Stage I
- One area of extranodal (outside of the lymph nodes) tissue is affected, or one group of lymph nodes outside of the chest cavity is affected.
- Stage II
- There is an extranodal tumor with nearby lymph involvement or there are two extranodal tumors on the same side of the diaphragm. Alternatively, if the cancer began in the stomach or intestines, it is stage II.
- Stage III
- If the extranodal tumors are on both sides of the diaphragm, the disease is stage III. Or, if the disease is in the chest, lungs, thymus, or around spinal cord, it is stage III.
- Stage IV
- If the disease has spread into the spinal cord or bone marrow, it is stage IV.
Treatment for Burkitt's Lymphoma
There are various forms of treatment for Burkitt's lymphoma. They include:
- Cytoxan, adriamycin, oncovin, cytarabine, methotretane, etoposide, and ifosfamide are typically used. Occassionally, chemo is injected straight into the fluid surrounding the spinal cord. This process is called intrathecal chemotherapy.
- Stem cell/bone marrow transplant
- If the chemo wipes out the patient's immune system, transplant is necessary to restore the body to health.
- Using monoclonal antibodies, such as Rituxan, in combination with chemotherapy shows promise in the treatment of this disease.
- The use of radiolabeled isotopes is being studied as a treatment for Burkitt's lymphoma
- Clinical Trials
- Cancer Patients have more options through clinical studies. Follow this link to learn more and find a clinical study opportunity near you.
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