Burkitts lymphoma is an exceedingly rare type of cancer. Less than a thousand cases are diagnosed yearly in the United States of America.
However, in some other parts of the world where it is endemic, such as certain parts of central Africa, Burkitt’s lymphoma is very common among children.
Burkitt’s lymphoma is a Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL) cancer that affects B lymphocyte cells. There are 3 distinct varieties of this disease:
-Immunodeficiency-related: This form of the condition occurs most often in HIV patients and similarly immunocompromised individuals such as recent transplant recipients. The condition may signal the onset of AIDS.
-Sporadic: This variant of the disease is found outside of the African continent. It is akin to endemic Burkitt’s lymphoma and is associated with immune system compromise.
-Endemic: This form of the disease is the so-called “African” form and is responsible for the majority of malignant cases in central African children. This form of the disease may affect several areas but most often impacts the jaw, ovaries, breasts, kidneys, facial bone. The Epstein-Barr virus, which is the virus responsible for mononucleosis is closely associated with Burkitt’s.
The symptoms of Burkitts lymphoma may include painless, swollen lymph nodes (this is characteristic of lymphomas in general), hardening and/or rapid growth of the lymph nodes. Pain in the abdomen is another possible sign.
This disease can be diagnosed by a variety of modes such as:
-X-ray of the chest
-Spinal fluid analysis
-Lymph node and/or bone marrow biopsy
-CT and/or PET scan
Treatment of this disease usually involves intense chemotherapy. The earlier that chemotherapy is started, the better the outlook as this is a particularly aggressive form of cancer. However, some cancers which grow rapidly such as Burkitt’s, respond more quickly to treatment. This can actually harm the patient through a process called tumor lysis syndrome, in which the body is subjected to the byproducts of the breakdown of cancer cells which may cause any of a host of serious complications such as severe electrolyte disruption and renal failure.
Combination chemotherapy may be supplemented with radiotherapy, dietary interventions, nootropics, supplements, exposure to natural sunlight (for vitamin D). Surgery is often indicated for the removal of tumors and a bone marrow transplant may be necessary in the case that the bone marrow is affected.
The prognosis of Burkitt’s lymphoma depends upon the risk-factor of the patient. Caught early (low-risk or low/intermediate risk), combination chemotherapy which has produced survival rates in the 90% range. These figures decline significantly for higher risk cases; ~70% for high/intermediate risk and ~30% for high risk. The total 5 year survival rate for adults with Burkitts lymphoma is about 50 percent.