There are so many rare diseases out there, but if you’re a person who has it or thinks they may have it, it isn’t so rare anymore. Such as Burkitt’s lymphoma.
Burkitt’s Lymphoma is a rare form of cancer which is classified under non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, meaning, the lymphoma is found within the lymph nodes or lymphoid tissue within other organs. The Lymph nodes act as filters that collect and destroy bacteria and viruses. Humans have around 500 to 600 lymph nodes throughout the body with clusters of them found in the underarms, groin, neck, chest, and abdomen.
Burkitts’ Lymphoma is a rare condition for adults, however can be relatively common and children as well as those residents of Central Africa. Burkitt’s lymphoma can develop at any age. It grows and spreads quickly, often to the bone marrow, blood, and central nervous system. When it spreads, large numbers of lymphoma cells may accumulate in the lymph nodes and abdominal organs causing swelling, weakness, and fatigue.
There are four stages of the lymphoma:
Stage I: The lymphoma is either limited to one group of lymph nodes either above or below the diaphragm, or is in an organ or part of the body other than the lymph nodes, but has not spread to other organs or lymph nodes.
Stage II: The lymphoma is either in two or more lymph node groups on the same side of the diaphragm, or is in only one organ or site other than the lymph nodes but has spread to the lymph nodes near that organ or site.
Stage III: The lymphoma is present in groups of lymph nodes on both sides of the diaphragm. It may involve an organ or site outside the lymph nodes, the spleen, or both.
Stage IV: The lymphoma is spread throughout one or more organs outside the lymph nodes. There may or may not be involvement of lymph nodes that are remote from the affected organs.
Burkitt’s lymphoma is characterized for large tumors in the facial or abdominal regions. As with other cancers, the exact cause is not known. The tumor grows very rapidly and a person who appeared in good health a few weeks ago may now be critically ill.
Even though the cause is not really known, there are some things that may contribute to your risk of Burkitt’s lymphoma. One of those risks is age, it is most common in people in their 60’s. Also if you have had an organ transplant, you are more susceptible because immunosuppressive therapy has impaired your immune mechanisms. Certain chemicals, such as those used to kill insects and weeds may increase your risk as well.
Studies have suggested that long term use of dark colored hair dyes may be linked to an increased risk of the disease. In almost all cases of African Burkitt’s lymphoma, the cells carry a virus known as Epstein-Barr virus. However this virus is very common and most adults have been infected with it, so it cannot be responsible for Burkitt’s lymphoma on its own. Another possible factor is infection with the AIDS virus. Studies have shown that it is 1,000 times more common in persons with AIDS than in the general population. Currently about 2% of AIDS patients develop this type of lymphoma.
The symptoms include:
Difficulty in breathing, and swelling of the face which is caused by enlarged lymph nodes in the chest. A loss of appetite, severe constipation, and abdominal pain or distention, which is caused by the enlarged lymph nodes in the abdomen. Weight loss and diarrhea also can occur because of an invasion of the small intestines. Fluid may accumulate around the lungs which is caused by a blocked lymph vessel in the chest. The skin may become thickened, or dark and itchy in some areas which is caused by an infiltration of the skin. As the disease spreads throughout the body you may also experience weight loss, fevers, and also night sweats.
Anemia is also common due to the bleeding into the digestive tract, destruction of red blood cells by an enlarged spleen or by abnormal antibodies, destruction of bone marrow because of the invasion by the lymphoma, and also the inability of the bone marrow to produce sufficient numbers of red blood cells because of drugs or radiation therapy. The invasion of the bone marrow and the lymph nodes cause decreased antibody production which makes you susceptible to severe bacterial infections. Because of the rapid growth of the lymphoma, patients soon may experience metabolic disturbances and kidney problems, as well as spreading to the brain and the spinal chord. Loss of teeth and also protruding eyeballs have also been spotted.
Diagnosis of Burkitt’s Lymphoma is normally done by a biopsy of an enlarged lymph node and used to distinguish it from Hodgkin’s disease and other problems that may cause enlarged lymph nodes. Image tests are also done to find tumors inside of the body; such as a chest x-ray, ultrasound, CT scan, and so on. Once it is diagnosed, treatment will follow. Everyone benefits from treatment and some people complete cure is possible but for other treatment may take sever years. At any case, treatment should begin promptly because it can be fatal.
The disease can be curable by chemotherapy and preventative therapy for the central nervous system is essential. Children generally have a better outlook than adults, however with the appropriate treatment; a cure can be achieved in 70% to 80% of children and young adults.
Always remember to call your health care provider if you have any symptoms of Burkitt’s lymphoma and always start treatment immediately!