What is Burkitt Lymphoma?
Burkitt Lymphoma is a rare type of cancer which occurs in the lymphatic system. It occurs when the body forms irregular B-cells. The B-cells are a type of white blood cell that fights disease and infections. Burkitt Lymphoma can occur in children and adults, but has more severe symptoms at higher ages.
Burkitt Lymphoma may cause an unexplained lump which often becomes swollen and causes pain. Since B-cells are located throughout the body, the location of these lumps can vary. Common spots for Burkitt Lymphoma to form include the stomach, neck and groin. If you notice a lump forming, it is always best to see a doctor as soon as possible. Early detection can reduce the spread and severity of this type of cancer.
Causes and Risk Factors for Burkitt Lymphoma
A risk factor is something that increases the likelihood of a disease forming. Burkitt Lymphoma has several risk factors. It should be noted that people without these risk factors may still contract Burkitt Lymphoma and people with these risk factors are not guaranteed to contract Burkitt Lymphoma.
Common risk factors of Burkitt Lymphoma include:
- Autoimmune disease – Sufferers of autoimmune diseases such as HIV or more prone to contracting Burkitt Lymphoma. This is due to a weakened immune system.
- Exposure to immuno-suppressants – An immuno-suppressant is a drug used to weaken the immune system. Immuno-suppressants are often used after an organ transplant or to treat autoimmune diseases.
Symptoms of Burkitt Lymphoma:
There are several common symptoms associated with Burkitt Lymphoma. If you notice any of these symptoms, we recommend that you see a doctor as soon as possible. A doctor will be able to determine if the symptoms are cancer early, allowing for more effective treatment.
Common symptoms of Burkitt Lymphoma include:
- A lump on the abdomen – Lumps or masses around the abdominal area are a common sign of Burkitt Lymphoma.
- Abdominal pain – The lumps that form on the abdomen can swell, causing pain which becomes worse over time.
- Lumps on armpits, neck or groin – You may notice a small, painless lump on one of these places. These are caused by lymphoma cells building up in the lymph nodes, causing them to become bigger.
- Loss of appetite – You may experience a reduced appetite, which is often accompanied by weight loss.
- Fever and night sweats – Sufferers of Burkitt Lymphoma will sometimes experience high temperatures and excessive sweating.
Diagnosis & Treatment for Burkitt Lymphoma:
Burkitt Lymphoma is usually diagnosed via a biopsy. This is when a part of an enlarged lymph node is removed and sent to a laboratory for further examination. Depending on the location, a biopsy may be performed under local or general anaesthetic.
As well as a biopsy, you may have other tests such as:
- Blood tests
- Scans and X-rays
If you are diagnosed with Burkitt Lymphoma, your doctor will recommend treatment based on your condition, the location of the cancer and its progression.
Below are some of the most common forms of treatment for Burkitt Lymphoma:
Intravenous chemotherapy is the most common treatment for Burkitt Lymphoma. During the treatment, drugs are injected directly into the bloodstream to target and destroy the cancer. Since Burkitt Lymphoma can spread around the bloodstream, this treatment is particularly effective at targeting it in all areas of the body.
Chemotherapy has several side effects which include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of hair
- Increased risk of infection
- Fatigue and tiredess
Rituximab is a drug that is often used alongside chemotherapy. It sticks to the proteins on the surface of cancer cells, stimulating the immune system and cuasing it to attack the cancer cells.
Steroids can also be used alongside chemotherapy to improve its effectiveness. They can also help you to feel better by reducing the severity of side effects.
During radiation therapy, external radiation is used to target the source of cancer. Although this treatment is effective, it will often cause side effects such as:
- Irritation of the skin
- Tiredness and fatigue
What support can we give for Burkitt Lymphoma?
Burkitt Lymphoma is a rare cancer, meaning it is not as well known as other forms of cancer. Without a Ribbon is an Australian organisation that provides support for individuals who suffer from rare cancers. We provide a designated platform for Warriors to obtain information specific to their Rare Cancer. We also provide annual opportunities for our Warriors to meet and learn from each other.
If you suffer from a rare cancer such as Burkitt Lymphoma, we can help and support you through your journey thanks to the generous donations we receive. Click the link below to sign up and become a Warrior today!
You can help us with your donation:
Without a Ribbon is a charity that works hard to aid those who suffer from rare cancers. You can help our cause in a variety of ways:
Donations – Without a Ribbon is grateful for every donation received. Giving to Without a Ribbon helps us to provide ongoing support, organise the annual gathering and subsidise the costs of our Warriors attending these conferences.
Sponsorship – If you wish to sponsor our charity, please contact us using this form.
Volunteering – We are always looking for volunteers to help with different aspects of running our charity. If you are looking for volunteer work, please feel free to contact us.