Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Recovering After Lung-Cancer Surgery

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday underwent surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City, where doctors removed two cancerous growths from her left lung, according to a press release issued by the Supreme Court. “Two nodules in the lower lobe of her left lung were discovered incidentally during tests performed at George Washington University Hospital to diagnose and treat rib fractures sustained in a fall on November 7,” the statement reads. “According to the thoracic surgeon, Valerie W. Rusch, MD, FACS, both nodules removed during surgery were found to be malignant on initial pathology evaluation. Post-surgery, there was no evidence of any remaining disease.” The statement adds that Ginsburg will remain at the hospital for a few days and is now “resting comfortably.” “Currently, no further treatment is planned,” it says. 

Dr. Albert Rizzo, chief medial officer at the American Lung Association, told The Daily Beast that pulmonary nodules—or “non-ordinary” masses found in the lungs—are “very common” and not typically removed unless they’re cancerous. Based on the information provided in the SCOTUS statement, Dr. Rizzo said Ginsburg’s nodules could have been “stage-one cancer,” which means the cancer will likely not return. Dr. Stephen Broderick, assistant professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, also said that Ginsburg’s medical future seems “quite favorable” if the surgery was “minimally invasive” and the cancer didn’t involve her lymph nodes. “If this is an early stage lung cancer, the overall prognosis is outstanding,” he said. As far as recovery is concerned, both doctors said Ginsburg will likely need “weeks” of rehab after she is discharged from the hospital. This is Ginsburg’s third bout with cancer. In 1999, she was treated for colorectal cancer, and in 2009 for pancreatic cancer. She has never missed a day of oral argument.

- Julia Arciga