Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has completed radiation therapy for a cancerous tumor on her pancreas and there is no evidence of the disease remaining, according to the Supreme Court statement on Friday, Aug. 23.
“The tumor was treated definitively and there is no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body,” the court said. “Ginsburg will continue to have periodic blood tests and scans. No further treatment is needed at this time.”
Ginsburg began her treatment on Aug. 5 at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
The justice tolerated treatment well,” the statement said. “She canceled her annual summer visit to Santa Fe, but has otherwise maintained an active schedule.”
Ginsburg was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993. She has gone through many cancer diagnoses, some of which were colorectal cancer in 1999, an earlier bout of pancreatic cancer in 2009, and lung cancer in December 2018.
As the Supreme Court’s oldest member, Ginsburg’s health and retirement plans have been discussed for years. She has also in recent years attracted particularly enthusiastic fans as the leader of the liberal wing of the court, which includes four members appointed by Democratic presidents and five by Republicans. Both liberals and conservatives watch her health closely because it’s understood the court would shift right for decades if President Donald Trump were to get the ability to nominate someone to replace her, according to AP.
Asked late Friday about Ginsburg, President Trump said: “I’m hoping she’s going to be fine. She’s been through a lot. She’s strong. She’s very tough. But we wish her well. Very well.”
The statement did not say if the new tumor is a recurrence of the pancreatic cancer Ginsburg was diagnosed with in 2009, or a new cancer that arose.
“It’s certainly not unheard of for the cancer to come back,” but it’s a more dire situation if it’s that rather than a new tumor that was found early enough for effective treatment, said Dr. Michael Pishvaian, a pancreatic specialist at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center who had no firsthand knowledge of Ginsburg’s care.
Pancreatic tumors are usually treated with surgery, but she or her doctors may have chosen not to do that for various reasons, and radiation is a standard treatment if surgery is not done, Pishvaian said.
Dr. Alan Venook, a University of California, San Francisco, pancreatic cancer specialist who also has no direct knowledge of Ginsburg’s case, said it’s not possible to know much about her outlook without details from her doctors.
If it is a recurrence that took a decade to form, “that tells me it’s not a very aggressive cancer,” he said. If the cancer is truly limited to the pancreas, “it could have been managed perfectly well with radiation,” he said, according to AP.
According to Politico, in January the White House was said to begin preparing for Ginsburg’s possible death or departure from the court, but she returned to the bench in February after surgery for lung cancer.
President Trump has successfully appointed conservative justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. A third successful Trump appointee would likely shift the court conservative to majority for decades to come.
Includes reporting from The Associate Press