Burkitt’s Lymphoma: Symptoms, Causes, Types, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prediction

It is a rare and aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma .

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system helps your body fight infections.

Burkitt’s lymphoma is more common in children who live in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is related to the Epstein-Barry virus chronic malaria.

Burkitt’s lymphoma is also seen in other places, including the United States. Out of Africa, Burkitt’s lymphoma is more likely to occur in people who have a compromised immune system.


Burkitt’s lymphoma can cause fever, weight loss and night sweats. Other symptoms of Burkitt’s lymphoma vary by type.

Sporadic Burkitt’s lymphoma

Symptoms of sporadic Burkitt’s lymphoma include:

  • Abdominal swelling
  • Distortion of the facial bones.
  • Night sweats.
  • Intestinal obstruction.
  • An enlarged thyroid.
  • Enlarged tonsils

Burkitt endemic lymphoma

The symptoms of endemic Burkitt lymphoma include:

  • Swelling and distortion of the facial bones.
  • Rapid growth of the lymph nodes.

Enlarged lymph nodes are not sensitive. The tumors can grow extremely fast, sometimes doubling their size in 18 hours.

Lymphoma related to HIV

The symptoms of HIV-related lymphoma are similar to those of the sporadic type.


The exact cause of Burkitt’s lymphoma is unknown. The risk factors vary according to the geographical location. Studies suggest that Burkitt’s lymphoma is the most common childhood cancer in regions where there is a high incidence of malaria, such as Africa. Elsewhere, the biggest risk factors are HIV and AIDS.


There are three types of Burkitt’s lymphoma that are sporadic, endemic and related to immunodeficiency. The types differ depending on the geographical location and the parts of the body that are affected.

Sporadic Burkitt’s lymphoma

Sporadic Burkitt’s lymphoma occurs outside of Africa, but is rare in other parts of the world. Sometimes it is associated with EBV. It tends to affect the lower part of the abdomen, where the small intestine ends and the large intestine begins.

Burkitt endemic lymphoma

This type of Burkitt’s lymphoma is seen most frequently in Africa, near the equator, where it is associated with chronic malaria and EBV infection. The facial bone and jaw are affected more frequently. But the small intestine, kidneys, ovaries and sinuses may also be involved.

Related to immunodeficiency

This type of Burkitt’s lymphoma is associated with the use of immunosuppressive drugs such as those used to prevent rejection of transplants and to treat HIV and AIDS.

Risk factor’s

Burkitt’s lymphoma is more likely to affect children. It is rare in adults. The disease is more common in men and people with compromised immune systems, such as those who have HIV or AIDS. The incidence is greater in:

  • North Africa.
  • The middle east.
  • South America.
  • Papua New Guinea.

Sporadic and endemic forms are associated with EBV infection. Viral infections transmitted by insects and herbal extracts that promote tumor growth are possible contributing factors.


A diagnosis of Burkitt’s lymphoma begins with a medical history and a physical examination. A tumor biopsy confirms the diagnosis. The bone marrow and the central nervous system are often involved. Bone marrow and spinal fluid are usually examined to see how far the cancer has spread.

Burkitt’s lymphoma is staged according to the involvement of lymph nodes and organs. The involvement of the bone marrow or central nervous system means that it has stage 4. A CT scan and an MRI can help identify which organs and lymph nodes are involved.


Burkitt’s lymphoma is usually treated with combination chemotherapy. Chemotherapy agents used in the treatment of Burkitt’s lymphoma include:

Treatment with monoclonal antibodies with rituximab can be combined with chemotherapy. Radiation treatment can also be used with chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy drugs are injected directly into the cerebrospinal fluid to prevent the cancer from spreading to the central nervous system. This injection method is known as “intrathecal”. Patients receiving intensive chemotherapy have the best treatment results.

In countries with limited medical resources, treatment is usually less aggressive and less successful. Children with Burkitt’s lymphoma have the best prognosis. The presence of intestinal obstruction requires surgery.

What is the long-term forecast?

The result depends on the stage at the time of diagnosis. The prognosis is often worse in adults over 40, but treatment for adults has improved in recent years.

The outlook is poor in people who have HIV or AIDS. It is significantly better in people whose cancer has not spread.