Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent surgery on Friday for early stage lung cancer, a Supreme Court spokesperson told NPR. The surgery was performed at Memorial Sloan Kettering hospital in New York. Doctors removed one of the five lobes of the lung.
If there are no complications in recovery, doctors say prospects look good for a full recovery for Justice Ginsburg, 85. She hopes to be back on the court for the start of the next argument session in early January.
The cancer was discovered after Ginsburg fell and fractured several ribs in November.
This was a press release from the Supreme Court:
“According to the thoracic surgeon Valerie Rusch, both nodules removed during surgery were found to be malignant on initial pathology evaluation. Post-surgery, there was no evidence of any remaining disease. Scans performed before surgery indicated no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body. Currently, no further treatment is planned. Justice Ginsburg is resting comfortably and is expected to remain in the hospital for a few days.”
Dr. Douglas Mathisen, chairman of thoracic surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, said that recovery typically ranges from two to four days in the hospital, with the patient able to go home, do desk work and make calls within a week.
Mathisen said, “These days we are seeing more and more patients in their 70s and 80s make relatively quick recoveries, because we are detecting so many more lung cancers at early stages” when treatment is far more effective and successful.
Removal of a lobe is considered “the gold standard” in treatment, and while it means a loss of 15 to 20 percent of the lung, it “can recover,” he said, with the other four lobes taking over some of the lost function.
News of Ginsburg’s latest bout with cancer is yet another blow to the Supreme Court’s liberals, now outnumbered 5-4 on the nation’s highest court.