Ruth Bader Ginsburg Was Just Treated for A Malignant Tumor on Her Pancreas, Says Supreme Court

Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been treated for a malignant tumor discovered on her pancreas, the Supreme Court announced on Friday.

The 86-year-old reportedly underwent a three-week course of radiation treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, after doctors discovered the malignant tumor on Ginsburg's pancreas after an abnormality showed up on a routine blood test in early July. 

This is Ginsburg's fourth time dealing with cancer. In 1999, the Justice was treated for colon cancer. Ten years later, in 2009, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In December 2018, Ginsburg underwent surgery after doctors discovered two cancerous masses on her lungs, but she made a full recovery and returned to work within months. 

This time, Ginsburg underwent a specific course of treatment—stereotactic ablative radiation therapy—which began on August 5, just days after a biopsy confirmed her pancreatic tumor was malignant. A bile duct stent—a metal or plastic tube that allows bile to drain—was also inserted, as part of her treatment. 

"The Justice tolerated treatment well," according to the press release. "She cancelled her annual summer visit to Santa Fe, but has otherwise maintained an active schedule. The tumor was treated definitively and there is no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body." 

While the specific type of pancreatic cancer Ginsburg had is unclear—there are multiple types, including ones that affect the pancreas' exocrine and endocrine cells—exocrine pancreatic cancers are the most common, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Of all exocrine pancreatic cancers, about 95% are adenocarcinomas, which usually begin in the ducts of the pancreas. 

As far as symptoms go, early pancreatic cancers don't typically show signs, per the ACS; and when symptoms do show up—jaundice, back and abdominal pain, weight loss, nausea and vomiting, among others—the tumors have often grown very large or cancer has spread outside the pancreas.

Treatment for pancreatic cancer also varies, but includes radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, immunotherapy, and, in late stages, pain control, per the ACS. When the cancer is gone, follow-up visits are typically recommended once every three months for a few years, and gradually decrease after that—which is what it appears Ginsburg is in for: "Justice Ginsburg will continue to have periodic blood tests and scans," the press release said, though "no further treatment is needed at this time."

It sounds like everyone breathe a sigh of relief that Ginsburg seems to be on the road to recovery. 

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