“You have Burkitt’s lymphoma, but it is one of the good cancers.”

“You have Burkitt’s lymphoma, but it is one of the good cancers.”  This is a total misconception. There is no good cancer and Burkitt’s is one of the fastest growing ones there is.

“You have Burkitt’s lymphoma.” What the heck is that? That is what my reaction was when I found out that I had Burkitt’s lymphoma. “It’s a type of Non Hodgkin Lymphoma that is very rare and you are the only one in 20 years that the Hospital has seen” My Oncologist said. One of my only questions was, what are my chances of survival? He said “About fifty-fifty,” and according to SEER he was right for my age group and stage.

Burkitt’s is a curable cancer, because it is so aggressive. Chemotherapy targets fast growing cells and Burkitt’s lymphoma is one of the fastest growing there is, so it can respond well to treatment. That said, the five year relative survival rates for all ages combined is just over 55% ( according to SEER otherwise known as “Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program”) Relative Survival rates are considered the Gold Standard when comes to statistics.

This cancer spreads so fast that it can get into vital organs very quickly and become wide spread quickly. The chemotherapy is very aggressive and very toxic and are some of the most aggressive treatments there is.  Complications can develop from the protocols. Infections can develop during treatment too especially during the nadir period (When you have virtually no immune system) and infections can be of great concern during the entire treatment process. So besides the cancer, there are other issues that can come about and you know the old saying that the cure is worse than the disease? Well in this case the disease is worse than the cure, but the cure can be very bad.

A recent study by Browns University concludes the older you are the harder Burkitt’s is to beat. It also concludes that the later the stage the harder it is to beat. The younger you are the better the chance of a cure and the cure rates for the very young are much higher than it is for adults.

What does all this mean?

  • If you get Burkitt’s your life is at risk no matter what age.
  • This cancer has to be caught early in order to have a better chance of survival.
  • The younger you are the better the chance of survival, but there are no guarantees.* If the relative survival rate at 5 years is 84% percent for your age group. That means 84 out of 100 make it, but 16 do not.
  • Burkitt’s is a very serious disease, it is curable, but not all are cured and this applies to all ages.

This disease is not to be taken lightly, ever. Yes, it is curable if you have Burkitt’s and you can be cured at any age and any stage, but no matter your age or stage make no mistake you are at risk.

Jeff Runyan
Stage IV Burkitt’s survivor in remission.
R-CHOP, CODOX-M/IVAC-R, 17 cycles of radiation.
References;
https://news.brown.edu/articles/2013/08/lymphoma

http://seer.cancer.gov/archive/csr/1975_2009_pops09/results_merged/sect_19_nhl.pdf