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Published:February 8th, 2009 13:30 EST
Ginsberg Is Diagnosed with Early-Stage Pancreatic Cancer

Ginsberg Is Diagnosed with Early-Stage Pancreatic Cancer

By Christopher HIllenbrand

According to sources close to her, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was admitted into surgery on Thursday to remove a tumor from her pancreas. The Justice went in for her yearly CAT scan in January at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. The test`s results showed an abnormality, about one centimeter long, growing on the center of her pancreas.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Gingsburg


The Chief Justice, who turned seventy-five last year, had the procedure done at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Her surgeon, Dr. Murray Brennan, announced that it will take seven to ten days for her to fully recuperate. According to the doctor, the cancer is in its earliest stages. Dr. Brennan is a renowned surgeon in the area of soft-tissue cancers and tumors, including pancreatic cancer.


  Whether the surgery was a success or not is known only to those closest to the Chief Justice.


Pancreatic cancer is one of the most difficult cancers to detect beyond medical testing. Its early-stage symptoms include common stomach discomfort and irregular bowel movements making further examinations necessary for proper diagnosis. Actually, fewer than ten percent of those with pancreatic cancer are diagnosed with the disease while it`s in its earliest stages. Surgery to assess this particular cancer`s progress is risky even for a middle-aged individual, let alone a woman approaching eighty.


Fortunately for the Justice, it was detected before it could spread into the abdomen, stomach or intestines. While being difficult to treat, pancreatic cancer is also one of the deadliest forms of cancer. An estimated 38,000 cases of the illness are diagnosed every year and only five percent of patients being treated are expected to survive beyond five years.


Health scares aren`t anything new for the Chief Justice. In 1999, Ginsberg underwent surgery for colon cancer. She received radiation treatment and chemotherapy during the Supreme Court`s term and didn`t miss a single day while on the bench at the time.


Even with her track record, Ginsberg will have time to convalesce. Supreme Court Justices are in the middle of their winter break as of the moment. They reconvene on February 20th for the first conference of the next judicial term.