Burkitt's lymphoma (BL) is a type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) that is sometimes called a B-cell lymphoma or small noncleaved cell lymphoma. It is an endemic (characteristic of a specific place) disease in central Africa but sporadic (occurring in scattered instances) in other countries. Burkitt's lymphoma is one of the most rapidly growing forms of human cancer. In addition, the number of new cases of this tumor is rising in most countries.
Burkitt's lymphoma was first described in 1957 by Denis Parsons Burkitt, an Irish surgeon. While this type of lymphoma is still relatively rare in the United States, it is responsible for 50% of cancer deaths in children in Uganda and central Africa. The endemic form of Burkitt's lymphoma is characterized by rapid enlargement of the patient's jaw, loosening of the teeth, protruding eyeballs, or an abdominal tumor in the region of the kidneys or ovaries.
In the sporadic form of Burkitt's, the patient may have a facial tumor but is much more likely to have an abdominal swelling, often in the area of the ileocecal valve (the valve between the lower portion of the small intestine and the beginning of the large intestine). About 90% of American children with Burkitt's have abdominal tumors. Others may develop tumors in the testes, ovaries, skin, nasal sinuses, or lymph nodes. In adults, Burkitt's lymphoma frequently produces a bulky abdomen and may involve the liver, spleen, and bone marrow.
Rebecca J. Frey Ph.D., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,