Burkitt Lymphoma Treatment

Is there a burkitt lymphoma treatment?

Burkitt lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that starts in immune cells known as B lymphocytes (B-cells). So, is there a burkitt lymphoma treatment? Let's better understand Burkitt lymphoma before reviewing treatments.

Doctors consider this lymphoma as the fastest growth tumor in humans, and it's characterized by impaired immunity. If left untreated, this cancer is fatal. The good thing is that intensive chemotherapy can help more than half of the patients to have long-term survival.

This cancer was first identified in children suffering from malaria in Africa, and it's rare outside of Africa. For example, there are about 1,200 patients of Burkitt lymphoma in the U.S. every year and about 59 per cent of them are usually aged 40 years and above. It's also likely to develop in people with HIV.

Types of Burkitt lymphoma

There are several types of Burkitt lymphoma as classified by the World Health Organization.

Types include:

  • Endemic (African): Common in African children aged between 4 to 7 years and it's more prevalent in boys
  • Sporadic (non-African): Affects people worldwide, and it accounts for 1 to 2 percent of adult lymphoma cases
  • Immunodeficiency-associated: This type is common in HIV patients. Patients suffering from congenital conditions that cause immune deficiency are also likely to suffer from it.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of Burkitt lymphoma depend on the type that a patient has. The endemic type usually starts as a tumor on the jaw or other facial bones. In some cases, it can affect the ovaries, breasts, and gastrointestinal tract, and spread to the central nervous system, causing weakness, paralysis and nerve damage.

Sporadic and Immunodeficiency-associated Burkitt lymphomas tend to start in the bowel, forming a massive tumor in the abdomen. These types can also start in the testes, ovaries, and other body organs, and may spread to the spinal fluid and brain.

Other common symptoms associated with this cancer include weight loss, night sweats, loss of appetite, fatigue, and unexplained fever.

Diagnosis of Burkitt Lymphoma

As you already know, this cancer spreads in the body so quickly, so prompt medical diagnosis is necessary to slow its progression.

When Burkitt lymphoma is suspected, a part or all the lymph nodes may be removed for a biopsy. This involves using a sample tissue to examine for the condition under a microscope. This procedure alone can help to validate or rule out the lymphoma.

Still, there are more tests that your doctor can carry out if more information or validation is required. These include computed tomographic, chest X-ray, PET or gallium scan, bone marrow biopsy, exam of spinal fluid, blood tests, and HIV tests.

Burkitt lymphoma treatment

The common treatment for this cancer is intensive intravenous chemotherapy, which involves a hospital stay. This type of chemotherapy has the best chance of killing as many cancerous cells as possible. Being an inpatient is necessary because it takes hours to give patients the drugs, you'll need plenty of drip fluid to ensure proper function of the kidneys, and several tests are required during the treatment period.

You can also be given another treatment known as intrathecal chemotherapy, and this involves injecting chemotherapy drugs directly into the cerebrospinal fluid. This is because Burkitt lymphoma tends to spread to the fluid surrounding the spinal cord and brain, so the intrathecal chemotherapy helps to prevent this.

Different drugs are usually used in various combinations to treat Burkitt lymphoma. A particular combination depends on several factors, such as the severity of the cancer and your overall health. These drugs include cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), cytarabine (Cytosar-U, Tarabine PFS), doxorubicin (Adriamycin), etoposide (Etopophos, Toposar, VePesid), methotrexate (Rheumatrex) and vincristine (Oncovin).

In some cases, the treatment will include intensive chemotherapy together with other treatments, such as radiation therapy, steroid therapy, autologous stem cell transplantation, and rituximab. Some patients will also need a surgical operation to remove sections of the intestine that are bleeding, blocked or have ruptured.

After completing chemotherapy treatments, you'll need to check how effective the treatment was. Some people will be completely remitted, meaning they'll have no signs of lymphoma. Follow-up visits are important to ensure the patient is healthy and tumors are not growing back.

If Burkitt lymphoma doesn't degenerate after six months, it's highly likely that the treatment was successful. So, if you were scheduled for monthly appointments, the doctor can reduce them to one appointment every six months.

Last Reviewed:
September 03, 2017
Last Updated:
October 05, 2017