U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's cancer has not spread beyond her pancreas, and the 75-year-old justice returned to her Washington, D.C., home on Friday after being released from New York City's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the court said.
Ginsburg's spleen and a portion of her pancreas were removed on Feb. 5 at the center after doctors had spotted a 1-centimeter growth during a CT scan in late January that later was found to be benign. A second, smaller tumor found by her surgeon, Dr. Murray Brennan, during the operation was malignant, however, the court said. Tests on Ginsburg's lymph nodes revealed no cancer, and doctors found no spread of it elsewhere, the Associated Press reported.
Since doctors caught the cancer as early Stage 1 disease, Ginsburg may be able to avoid chemotherapy because of the tumor's small size and the absence of cancer in her lymph nodes, cancer specialists told the AP. In fact, Ginsburg has indicated that she expects to be back at the Supreme Court on Feb. 23, when the justices will hear arguments.
As a colon cancer survivor, Ginsburg underwent regular checkups for growths, and it was the quick identification of the pancreatic tumor that enabled doctors to move quickly, AP reported.
Just 5 percent of pancreatic cancer patients live five years after their diagnosis, since most cases are found in late stage when the disease is harder to treat. For those whose cancer is diagnosed early, surgery, followed by chemotherapy, is the usual course, according to the American Cancer Society, and five-year survival rates grow to 20 percent to 24 percent.
"She couldn't have asked for a better way of picking this up," Dr. Chandra Are, a surgeon at the University of Nebraska Medical Center who said he trained under Brennan, told the AP. "She was very lucky."