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Burkitt lymphoma



Burkitt lymphoma is a very fast growing form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Alternative Names

B-cell lymphoma; High-grade B-cell lymphoma; Small noncleaved cell lymphoma


This type of tumor was first discovered in children in certain parts of Africa, but it also occurs in the United States.

The African type of Burkitt lymphoma is closely associated with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), the main cause of infectious mononucleosis. The North American form of Burkitt lymphoma is not linked to EBV.

The majority of Burkitt lymphoma cases are seen in males.


Burkitt lymphoma may first be noticed as a swelling of the lymph nodes (glands) in the neck, groin, below the jaw, or under the arm. These swollen lymph nodes are often painless, but can grow very rapidly.

In the more common types seen in the United States, the cancer usually starts in the belly area (abdomen). The disease can also start in the ovaries, testes, brain, and spinal fluid.

Symptoms include:

  • Nodes that grow together to form a lump
  • Nontender nodes
  • Rapid growth of the lymph nodes
  • Unexplained swollen lymph nodes
Signs and tests
Expectations (prognosis)

More than half of those with Burkitt lymphoma can be cured with intensive chemotherapy. The cure rate may be lower if the cancer spreads to the bone marrow or spinal fluid.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of Burkitt lymphoma.

  • Complications of treatment (radiation therapy or chemotherapy)
  • Spread of the cancer

Chemotherapy is used to treat this type of cancer. Commonly used medicines include prednisone, cyclophosphamide, vincristine, cytarabine, doxorubicin, methotrexate, and others.



Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: p.1411.

Review Date: 7/11/2008
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and James R. Mason, MD, Oncologist, Director, Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program and Stem Cell Processing Lab, Scripps Clinic, Torrey Pines, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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