Ruth Bader Ginsburg Has Cancerous Nodules Removed From Lung

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent surgery to remove cancerous nodes from a lung, but reports seem to point to a quick recovery.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the oldest Justice on the Supreme Court and the scion of the Court’s liberal wing, underwent surgery in New York City to remove cancerous nodules in one of her lungs:

WASHINGTON — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent surgery on Friday to remove two malignant nodules from her left lung, according to Kathleen Arberg, a Supreme Court spokeswoman. The nodules were discovered during tests following a fall in November in which Justice Ginsburg fractured her ribs.

The surgery, called a pulmonary lobectomy, took place at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

According to the thoracic surgeon, Dr. Valerie W. Rusch, the nodules removed during surgery were found to be malignant on initial pathology evaluation, Ms. Arberg said in a statement.

After the surgery, she added, “there was no evidence of any remaining disease” and “scans performed before surgery indicated no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body.”

More from The Washington Post:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had surgery Friday morning for two malignant nodules in her left lung, a Supreme Court spokeswoman said.

The 85-year-old Ginsburg is “resting comfortably” after the surgery, the spokeswoman said.

The pulmonary lobectomy was performed at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. The two nodules in the lower lobe of her left lung were discovered incidentally during tests performed at George Washington University Hospital after Ginsburg fell and broke her ribs on Nov. 7, the court said.

“Post-surgery, there was no evidence of any remaining disease,” the court said in a news release. “Scans performed before surgery indicated no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body. Currently, no further treatment is planned. Justice Ginsburg is resting comfortably and is expected to remain in the hospital for a few days.”

According to the Johns Hopkins medical health library, a lobectomy is a surgery to remove one of the lobes of the lungs. The right lung has three lobes, the left has two.

“A lobectomy may be done when a problem is found in just part of a lung,” the online library states. “The affected lobe is removed, and the remaining healthy lung tissue can work as normal.”

This marks Ginsburg’s third bout with cancer. She was treated for colorectal cancer in 1999, and pancreatic cancer was discovered at a very early stage 10 years later. She scheduled treatment for both during the court’s off-days, and has not missed a day of oral argument.

It is unclear whether she will be on the bench when the court next hears a case, on Jan. 7.

Despite the fall in her chambers last month, Ginsburg had returned to her normal active schedule. She has attended an event at the White House honoring her friend, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and was at the Washington opening of a new movie based on her life before she became a justice. The film, “On the Basis of Sex,” opens more widely Dec. 25.

Here’s the press release from the Court:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent a pulmonary lobectomy today at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Two nodules in the lower lobe of her left lung were discovered incidentally during tests performed at George Washington University Hospital to diagnose and treat rib fractures sustained in a fall on November 7. According to the thoracic surgeon, Valerie W. Rusch, MD, FACS, both nodules removed during surgery were found to be malignant on initial pathology evaluation. Post-surgery, there was no evidence of any remaining disease. Scans performed before surgery indicated no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body. Currently, no further treatment is planned. Justice Ginsburg is resting comfortably and is expected to remain in the hospital for a few days. Updates will be provided as they become available.

Given Ginsburg’s advanced age and the fact that she is seen as the lynchpin of the Court’s liberal wing, news like this is obviously going to result in headlines and attention, as well as concerns, from the news media and from those who follow the court on a regular basis. The fact that this is her third cancer-related surgery in roughly twenty years makes the situation even more concerning. Add into this the fact that, if she were required or forced to step down from the Court for health reasons then the door would be open for President Trump to make a third appointment to the Supreme Court in three years and it’s obvious to see why people would be concerned. The President has already arguably had the opportunity to make a nomination to the high court that will have a significant impact on its ideological balance with the selection of Justice Bretty Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy earlier this year, a selection that was important due to the fact that Kennedy had become the center of the court in its most controversial cases and the deciding vote in many of the most important of the Court’s rulings on issues such as LGBT rights, abortion rights, and Affirmative Action. Replacing Ginsburg would mean the establishment of a conservative super-majority of six Justices that could last well into the middle of the 21sth Century.

Based on these initial reports it sounds as if Ginsburg is in as good health as can be expected. The fact that there apparently isn’t any follow up therapy such as radiation or chemotherapy planned suggests that they may have caught these nodules early enough to ensure that cancer had not spread beyond the immediate area where the nodules are located. If that’s true, then it could turn out that the fall that Ginsburg experienced in early November when she cracked her ribs may have been a lucky happenstance since it was during X-Rays after that fall that signs of the nodules were first detected. All that being said, Ginsburg is 85 years old and this is the third time she has been treated for cancer. Hopefully, this surgery will be sufficient and Justice Ginsburg will recover quickly and be back on the bench on January 7th when the Court returns to hear cases. At the same time, though, given her advanced age and previous cancer history, there is good cause to be concerned for her health.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Supreme Court,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Be well, RBG…your country needs you.

    ReplyReply
  2. Teve says:

    I will Weekend at Bader’s her if I have to.

    ReplyReply
  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    And all over America white evangelical Christians are praying fervently for her to die.

    ReplyReply
  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    That woman can have one of my lungs.
    They found the cancer because of the broken ribs…talk about a silver lining.

    ReplyReply
  5. Gustopher says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: It’s scary absurd that the fate of our country doesn’t just depend on the health of an 85 year old woman, but on her fortunate stumbles.

    ReplyReply
  6. James Pearce says:

    Just saying, 85 year old ladies don’t survive lung cancer.

    ReplyReply
  7. An Interested Party says:

    Just saying, 85 year old ladies don’t survive lung cancer.

    RBG isn’t a normal 85 year old lady…

    ReplyReply
  8. Joe says:

    Almost nobody survives pancreatic cancer, James Pearce, but she did. Keep truckin’, RBG.

    ReplyReply
  9. James Pearce says:

    @An Interested Party: @Joe: She’s at the far end of the human life span and has a history of cancer. Not saying plan the funeral, but maybe make sure all the kids and grandkids and great grandkids see her this Christmas.

    ReplyReply

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