Samweli Hassani listens during class in his school in Fela, Tanzania. The 14-year-old boy was diagnosed with Burkitt's Lymphoma, an aggressive childhood cancer that causes disfiguring tumors and can be fatal within weeks if not treated. Fortunately, his mother was able to get him to a clinic quickly. He received treatment and beat BL. (IMA World Health/Paul Jeffrey)

Curing a common childhood cancer

About the Project

It starts with swelling and pain in the jaw, eyes, face, and abdomen. At first, the symptoms may mimic other health problems, but the disfiguring tumors grow quickly. Within weeks, Burkitt’s Lymphoma can be fatal.

BL is a childhood cancer most commonly found in areas with high concentrations of malaria, and it affects approximately 700 children in Tanzania each year. Though it is aggressive and advances quickly, BL is highly treatable if diagnosed and treated promptly.

IMA has been combating BL in Tanzania for over a decade, primarily by training health workers to promote early detection and by providing the chemotherapy drugs needed to beat BL.

Thanks to this work, thousands of children have been treated and had their health – and lives – restored.

Project Objectives

  • Train health care workers to properly diagnose and manage cases of BL.
  • Provide the appropriate essential chemotherapy drugs to participating hospitals, because they are not on the Tanzania Essential Drugs List and are difficult for hospitals to obtain.
  • Provide treatment for children suffering from BL.

Key Achievements

  • Provided treatment for over 4,500 children.
  • Trained over 2,000 health care professionals and students in diagnosis and case management of BL.
  • In 2011, received national accreditation with the MOHSW for IMA’s five-day Laboratory Technician Burkitt’s Lymphoma Diagnostic Training.
  • In 2009, facilitated the development of the country’s first cancer guidelines – the Burkitt’s Lymphoma National Treatment Guidelines.