B-cell lymphoma

B-cell 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 non-cleaved 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

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 U.S., the cancer usually starts in the belly area (abdomen). The disease can also start in parts of the body, such as the ovaries, testes, brain, and spinal fluid.

The majority of Burkitt lymphoma cases are seen in males.


  • Unexplained swollen lymph nodes
  • Non-tender nodes
  • Rapid growth of the lymph nodes
  • Nodes that grow together to form a lump

Exams and Tests

  • Lymph node biopsy
  • Chest x-ray
  • Bone marrow biopsy
  • CT scan of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis
  • Cerebral spinal fluid analysis
  • PET or gallium scan


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

Support Groups

The stress of illness can often be helped by joining a support group where members share common experiences and problems.

Outlook (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.

Possible Complications

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

When to Contact a Medical Professional

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

American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2006. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society; 2006.

Goldman L, Ausiello D. Cecil Textbook of Medicine, 22nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 2004:1182.

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