Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Says She No Longer Has Pancreatic Cancer

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told CNN that treatment for her pancreatic cancer had been successful. Credit: Krista Schlueter for The New York Times
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose health has become a preoccupation of the American public as the Supreme Court hews rightward under President Trump, announced this week that she was cancer-free.

Justice Ginsburg, 86, one of four liberal justices on the nine-member court, told CNN in a wide-ranging interview on Tuesday that treatment for a malignant tumor on her pancreas had been successful.

Her doctors discovered the tumor in July after a routine blood test, and a biopsy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City confirmed a localized malignant tumor.

"I'm cancer-free," Justice Ginsburg said in the interview, adding that she had resumed an active schedule. "That's good."

A Supreme Court spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

This was the fourth time that Justice Ginsburg, who was nominated to the court by President Bill Clinton in 1993, had undergone cancer treatment.

In 2018, surgeons removed two malignant nodules from Justice Ginsburg's left lung and determined that cancer had not spread. In 2009, she had surgery for early-stage pancreatic cancer, and in 1999 she was treated for colon cancer without missing a day on the bench.

The five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer that is localized is 37 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute. But many patients don't show symptoms — which include abdominal pain, jaundice, lack of appetite and weight loss — until pancreatic cancer has spread to other organs, according to medical experts.

In 53 percent of pancreatic cancer cases in the United States, cancer has metastasized to distant organs, which the National Cancer Institute said decreases the five-year survival rate to 2.9 percent.

Justice Ginsburg's health challenges have made Democrats uneasy about another retirement or vacancy on the court while Mr. Trump is president. Since taking office, Mr. Trump has nominated two justices to the nine-member court: Neil M. Gorsuch after the death of Antonin Scalia and Brett M. Kavanaugh to replace Anthony M. Kennedy, who had been considered the swing vote on the court before his retirement in 2018.

Justice Ginsburg, the senior member of the court's four-member liberal wing, is expected to play a key role in a number of landmark cases that are scheduled to come before the court, including a Louisiana abortion law, a Second Amendment case and the push by Democrats in Congress for the release of Mr. Trump's tax and financial records.

Justice Ginsburg has stayed in the public eye during her most recent cancer diagnosis with a series of speaking engagements. There has been a book ("Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg"), a major motion picture, a documentary and merchandise, including a necklace pendant resembling the collar she wears when writing a dissenting opinion.

In an interview last year with National Public Radio, Justice Ginsburg notably brushed aside skepticism about her health, recalling a comment from a senator long ago.

"There was a senator, I think it was after my pancreatic cancer, who announced with great glee that I was going to be dead within six months," she said. "That senator, whose name I have forgotten, is now himself dead, and I am very much alive."


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