Lymphomas (see also Overview of Lymphoma Overview of Lymphoma Lymphomas are cancers of lymphocytes, which reside in the lymphatic system and in blood-forming organs. Lymphomas are cancers of a specific type of white blood cells known as lymphocytes. These... read more ) are cancers of a specific type of white blood cells known as lymphocytes Acquired Immunity One of the body's lines of defense ( immune system) involves white blood cells (leukocytes) that travel through the bloodstream and into tissues, searching for and attacking microorganisms and... read more . These cells help fight infections. Lymphomas can develop from either B or T lymphocytes, the two main types of lymphocyte. T lymphocytes are important in regulating the immune system and in fighting viral infections. B lymphocytes produce antibodies Antibodies One of the body's lines of defense ( immune system) involves white blood cells (leukocytes) that travel through the bloodstream and into tissues, searching for and attacking microorganisms and... read more , which are essential in fighting off some infections.
Burkitt lymphoma can develop at any age, but it is most common in children and young adults, particularly males. Unlike other lymphomas, Burkitt lymphoma has a specific geographic distribution: It is most common in central Africa and rarer in the United States. Infection with Epstein-Barr virus Infectious Mononucleosis Epstein-Barr virus causes a number of diseases, including infectious mononucleosis. The virus is spread through kissing. Symptoms vary, but the most common are extreme fatigue, fever, sore throat... read more is associated with Burkitt lymphoma. It is also more common in people who have HIV infection Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection .
Burkitt lymphoma grows and spreads quickly, often to the bone marrow, blood, and central nervous system. When it spreads, weakness and fatigue often develop. Large numbers of lymphoma cells may accumulate in the lymph nodes Overview of the Lymphatic System The lymphatic system is a vital part of the immune system. It includes organs such as the thymus, bone marrow, spleen, tonsils, appendix, and Peyer patches in the small intestine that produce... read more and organs of the abdomen, causing swelling. Lymphoma cells may invade the small intestine, resulting in blockage or bleeding. The neck and jaw may swell, sometimes painfully. To make the diagnosis, doctors do a biopsy of the abnormal tissue and order other procedures to stage the disease.
Without treatment, Burkitt lymphoma is rapidly fatal. Rarely, surgery may be needed to remove parts of the intestine that are blocked or bleeding or have ruptured. Intensive chemotherapy Chemotherapy Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells. Although an ideal drug would destroy cancer cells without harming normal cells, most drugs are not that selective. Instead, drugs... read more , which includes chemotherapy to the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord to prevent spread to these areas, can cure more than 80% of people.