05 February 2009

Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer

Aw Crap:

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had surgery Thursday after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the court said.

Ginsburg, 75, had the surgery at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer
Center in New York. She will remain in the hospital for seven to 10
days, said her surgeon, Dr. Murray Brennan, according to a release
issued by the court.

The court announcement said the cancer is apparently in the early stages.

In 1999, Ginsburg, had surgery for colon cancer and had chemotherapy and radiation treatment. She has been a justice since 1993.

The pancreatic cancer was discovered during a routine, annual exam
late last month at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

I suspect she must have had a Whipple, but who really knows. It's encouraging to know that the cancer was "early," but once again, I don't know what they mean by that, and the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is a grave one in all events. One also wonders what signs of "early" pancreatic cancer are evident on physical exam.

I'll be wishing her well, and hoping for a rapid recovery and return to the Court. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Cancer sucks.

UPDATE: Buckeye Surgeon points out that the tumor was discovered on a routine surveillance CT Scan, indicated by her history of Colon Cancer. That makes more sense, and in my optimistic opinion, improves her prognosis substantially, since pancreatic cancer is rarely discovered prior to local extension. This may be the exception to the rule.


  1. Not to make a tasteless point out of it, but should her health degrade over the near future and should she have to resign, I think we can all collectively, as liberals, use it as a great opportunity to thank god once again that the election turned out the way it did.

  2. If I'm not mistaken, getting a pancreatic cancer diagnossis in one's seventies is preferable to getting one at a younger age.

    My best friend C. was only 37 when she died of this shockingly lethal cancer. She'd been having acid reflux for a few weeks, treating it with antacids and then Prilosec. Then the stomach pain got horrible on a Sunday, so she went to the ER, where an MRI showed the enormous tumor. You're right--the symptoms are usually not severe enough to warrant investigation until the cancer has spread. C. had a Whipple procedure the next day but at that point, at her young age, the cancer was in her liver and lungs, too. She died less than two weeks after being diagnosed.

    Somewhat off-topic, but C. had no healthcare coverage at her job as a legal secretary; her struggling divorced mother received a bill for over $80k from the hospital the day after she'd buried her daughter. It took a long time, but she was able to get some assistance from the firm as well as friends and odd family members, and paid it over time, the only way she could. But can you imagine having to go through all that after going through all that?

    I second your statement: cancer sucks, alright.

    And I hope with all my heart that Justice Ginsberg's cancer was caught very early and that the slower cell-growth of older folks works in her favor. I also hope she has plenty of effective pain relief available to her.

  3. I want to add: C was not a smoker. She was a slim, active vegetarian who exercised like a fiend.

    Cancer sucks for many reasons, not the least of which is that it can happen to anyone.

  4. Wow, planning to return to work in February after a huge surgery, that is tough. I hope for the best for her. That is one nasty cancer. Working in hospice, I see a lot of it...

  5. There's nothing routine about a yearly CT scan 10 years out from a presumed cure of stage II sigmoid colon cancer resection.

    FYI. The current guidelines don't support that practice.

  6. I'm willing to bet the Supreme Court and Congress all get a yearly "preventative body scan" for free (taxpayer expense), while the rest of us get a Chinese penlight.

    I guess some are more equal than others.

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