What are the signs and symptoms of Burkitt lymphoma/Burkitt-like lymphoma (BL/BLL)?

Updated: Dec 20, 2019
  • Author: Ali H Kanbar, MD; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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Burkitt and Burkitt-like lymphomas have a rapid and aggressive clinical course with frequent bone marrow and central nervous system (CNS) involvement. These are considered to be medical emergencies and require immediate diagnostic and therapeutic intervention.

Endemic (African) Burkitt lymphoma (eBL) most commonly involves the jaw and facial bone (orbit) (> 50% of cases). Sporadic Burkitt lymphoma (sBL) most often presents as abdominal tumors with bone marrow involvement. Immunodeficiency-related Burkitt lymphoma cases usually as with nodal involvement with frequent bone marrow involvement.

Common findings and symptoms in patients with Burkitt lymphoma are summarized below.

Abdominal masses, which can cause abdominal pain and distention andascites

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite, change in bowel habits, or both
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Signs and symptoms of acute abdomen
  • Intestinal perforation
  • Renal failure as a result of retroperitoneal disease and renal involvement or secondary to tumor lysis syndrome

Mandibular or maxillary mass

  • Most common presentation in eBL (maxillary > mandibular)
  • May involve the orbit; jaw involvement occurs much less frequently (15-20%)

CNS involvement

  • Meningeal infiltration, with or without cranial nerve (CN) involvement (frequently, CN III and CN VII); most common mode of presentation with CNS disease
  • Headaches, visual impairment, and paraplegia from spinal involvement; these may be the initial presenting features in some cases

"B" systemic symptoms

  • Uncommon but may be associated with other presenting symptoms (eg, fever, weight loss, night sweats, fatigue)


  • Bone marrow involvemen
  • Painless lymphadenopathy (adults > children)

See Presentation for more detail.

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