Health Information

Burkitt lymphoma

Burkitt lymphoma


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

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

I Would Like to Learn About:

  • Causes

    Burkitt lymphoma 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.

    People with HIV have an increased risk for this condition. Burkitt lymphoma is most often seen in males.

  • Symptoms

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

    In the types commonly 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:

    • Fever
    • Night sweats
    • Unexplained swollen lymph nodes
    • Unexplained weight loss
  • Exams and Tests

    • Bone marrow biopsy
    • Chest x-ray
    • CT scan of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis
    • Complete blood count (CBC)
    • Examination of the spinal fluid
    • Lymph node biopsy
    • PET scan
  • Treatment

    Chemotherapy is used to treat this type of cancer. If the cancer does not respond to chemotherapy alone, a bone marrow transplant may be done.

  • Outlook (Prognosis)

    More than half of patients 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. The outlook is poor if the cancer comes back after a remission or does not go into remission as a result of the first cycle of chemotherapy.

  • Possible Complications

    • Complications of treatment
    • Spread of the cancer
  • When to Contact a Medical Professional

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

Related Information

  Hodgkin lymphoma...MononucleosisTumorRadiation therapy...     Hodgkin's disease...


National Cancer Institute: PDQ Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified 04/11/2014. Available at: //www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/adult-non-hodgkins/HealthProfessional. Accessed May 29, 2014.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines): Non-Hodgkin's Lymphomas. Version 2.2014. Available at: //www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/nhl.pdf. Accessed May 29, 2014.

Roschewski MJ, Wilson WH. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, et al., eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2013:chap 106.


Review Date: 5/29/2014  

Reviewed By: Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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