Justice Ginsburg Has Lung Surgery to Remove Cancerous Growths

(Bloomberg) -- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent surgery to remove two cancerous growths from her left lung in the latest health scare for the U.S. Supreme Court’s 85-year-old liberal.

Although the growths were malignant, no evidence was found of any remaining disease and no further treatment is planned, the court said in a statement on Friday. She’s resting comfortably and is expected to remain in the hospital for a few days, according to the statement.

Ginsburg’s well-being is of intense interest to liberals who don’t want President Donald Trump to get the chance to nominate her successor, as well as conservatives eager to further entrench the court’s conservative majority.

Ginsburg is already a two-time cancer survivor, having beaten colon and pancreatic cancer. The latest occurrence was discovered incidentally during treatment for three ribs she broke in a fall on Nov. 7. The surgery, which involved the lower lobe of her left lung, was performed Friday at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York by Valerie W. Rusch, a thoracic surgeon.

‘Blessing in Disguise’

“The majority of patients at this stage of lung cancer are cured with this surgery,” said Stephen Liu, a lung cancer specialist at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. “While there is a risk of recurrence, I would expect that she is cured of her cancer and will be back on her feet working relatively soon. Most are out of the hospital within a few days.”

Liu said Ginsburg’s recent fall had been a “blessing in disguise,” resulting in early-stage discovery of the nodules.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear its next arguments on Jan. 7. Ginsburg has never missed an argument, even while undergoing cancer treatment.

Trump wished Ginsberg “a full and speedy recovery!” in a tweet Friday night.

Ginsburg is an iconic figure among liberals, earning the affectionate nickname “Notorious RBG” and becoming the focus of two major movies this year. Ginsburg is known for her slight physical stature, rigorous workout routines and pointed opinions.

Movie Release

By all appearances, she’d recovered well from the broken ribs. She was an energetic participant in six days of Supreme Court arguments in late November and early December, and appeared in public outside the court at least five times since the incident. She went to the funeral for President George H.W. Bush and attended multiple events connected to “On the Basis of Sex,” a movie based on her life that goes into wide release on Christmas Day.

“Ginsburg had the most aggressive surgery, which tells me she was an excellent candidate in very good health,” Liu said. “Those who are more frail might not be able to tolerate it.”

Sudish Murthy, head of general thoracic surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, said it’s unlikely there are additional nodules in the lung.

"The biggest problem for her in the short-term is really not the cancer, it’s the full recovery from the treatment," he said. "You have an 85-year-old gal that has to recover from a major operation. As we get older, it becomes far more difficult to recover from some things, particularly as you’re conditioned to be recumbent and bed-ridden."

Murthy said it would be "fairly unusual" for the nodules to be related to Ginsburg’s previous pancreatic and colon cancers. "Those cancers are in the rear-view mirror," he said.

Conservative commentators quickly predicted Trump would soon be able to nominate his third justice to a Supreme Court he’s already shifted to the right with the picks of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. “Another Justice appointment inevitable and soon. Bad news for the left,” former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said in a tweet.

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