U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had surgery on Dec. 21, 2018 at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City to remove cancer from her left lung.

The cancerous nodules on the lower lobe of the lung were discovered by chance after she had tests to diagnose and treat ribs she broke in a fall on November 7.

“This is what you call a serendipitous pickup,” says Len Horovitz, MD, a pulmonologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “It’s not unusual to have something picked up on a chest X-ray taken for another reason, such as a fall.” Horovitz, a lung expert, is not involved in Ginsburg’s care.Tests found that both nodules removed during surgery were cancerous, says thoracic surgeon Valerie W. Rusch, MD. But there was no evidence of any other cancer in her lungs after the nodules were removed.

Before the surgery, scans showed no signs of cancer anywhere else. No further treatment is planned. This is not the 85-year-old’s first bout with cancer. She had a small, early-stage pancreatic tumor removed in 2009. Ten years earlier, the justice was treated for a small, early-stage colon tumor. Like the malignant lung nodules, both previous cancers were discovered by chance and had not spread elsewhere in the body.

“It’s not clear whether [the lung cancer] is a primary cancer or one that has spread from another place. Colon cancer doesn’t generally spread to the lungs. Pancreatic cancer can spread virtually anywhere,” says Horovitz. “If these nodules were a primary lung cancer limited to that lobe, we can hope that this [surgery] was a cure.”

Ginsburg is known for returning to work quickly after injuries and surgeries. She did not miss a day of work after breaking two ribs in 2012. She returned to work quickly after a heart procedure that same year.Ginsburg is resting comfortably and is expected to remain in the hospital for a few days, according to a statement from the Supreme Court.

“She will need to be monitored closely for the appearance of any other nodules,” says Horovitz. “But we certainly hope that will not be the case.”


Who is Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Ginsburg was appointed by President Bill Clinton and took the oath of office on August 10, 1993. She is the second female justice (after Sandra Day O’Connor) of four to be confirmed to the court (along with Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, who are still serving).

Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Russian Jewish immigrants. Her older sister died when she was a baby, and her mother, one of her biggest sources of encouragement, died shortly before Ginsburg graduated from high school. She then earned her bachelor’s degree at Cornell University, and became a wife and mother before starting law school at Harvard, where she was one of the few women in her class. Ginsburg transferred to Columbia Law School, where she graduated tied for first in her class. Following law school, Ginsburg turned to academia. She was a professor at Rutgers Law School and Columbia Law School, teaching civil procedure as one of the few women in her field.

Ginsburg spent a considerable part of her legal career as an advocate for the advancement of gender equality and women’s rights, winning multiple victories arguing before the Supreme Court. She advocated as a volunteer lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union and was a member of its board of directors and one of its general counsels in the 1970s. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where she served until her appointment to the Supreme Court. Ginsburg has received considerable attention in American popular culture; dubbed the “Notorious R.B.G.”, she is seen as a symbol of public resistance.


2018-12-21 21:02:00
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