What is Burkitt's Lymphoma?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 21 May 2020
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Burkitt's Lymphoma, named for the physician who discovered it in the 1950s, is a form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma which is endemic to certain regions of Africa. The prognosis for patients with this form of lymphoma can be quite good, if the condition is caught early and treatment is aggressive. Unfortunately, the African populations at high risk for Burkitt's Lymphoma often lack access to the medical care they need, and this can result in treatment delays.

Lymphomas are a family of cancers which involve the lymphatic system. In the case of Burkitt's Lymphoma, the B-cells in the lymph start to become cancerous, causing tumors to develop in the lymphatic system and around the body. One of the most common symptoms of the condition is an abdominal mass created as a tumor develops, and in Africa, many people experience large lesions on their jaws as a result of Burkitt's Lymphoma.

Doctors divide this lymphoma into three basic types: sporadic, endemic, and immunodeficient. Sporadic Burkitt's Lymphoma occurs outside of Africa, with jaw lesions being relatively rare, and there is no clear cause for it, although some researchers suspect that there may be a genetic component. The endemic varietal is found in Africa, and it has been directly linked with infection by the Epstein-Barr Virus, which appears to make the B-cells more susceptible to abnormal growth. Immunodeficient Burkitt's Lymphoma appears in patients with compromised immune systems, such as AIDS patients.

The immediate treatment for this condition is chemotherapy which is designed to kill the rogue B-cells and prevent the spread of the cancer. Radiation, steroids, immunotherapy, and bone marrow transplants may also be used to address the cancer. In the case of patients with large tumors, surgical measures may be used to remove the tumors, or to repair the damage caused by tumors.

Genetic research has suggested that the presence of certain genes can predispose people to developing Burkitt's Lymphoma, although people can develop this cancer without these genes being present. No particular preventative measures can ensure that someone will not develop this condition, although eating a healthy diet, exercising, and working to maintain general physical health can certainly be beneficial in general. People who notice developments such as large masses or painful abscesses on their bodies should certainly seek medical treatment to determine the cause and receive the appropriate treatment, and those with a family history of this disease may want to mention this fact when seeking medical care for symptoms associated with Burkitt's Lymphoma.


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