Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has completed a three-week course of radiation treatment in New York City for a cancerous tumor on her pancreas, the Supreme Court disclosed in a Friday statement.
“The abnormality was first detected after a routine blood test in early July, and a biopsy performed on July 31 at Sloan Kettering confirmed a localized malignant tumor,” the statement read.
The 86-year-old justice underwent stereotactic ablative radiation therapy, which ended Friday, at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. A bile duct stent was placed as part of the treatment, the statement added.
The tumor was “treated definitively,” and there is no evidence of the disease anywhere else in her body, the Supreme Court said.
“The Justice tolerated the treatment well. She cancelled her annual summer visit to Santa Fe, but has otherwise maintained an active schedule,” the statement reads. “Justice Ginsburg will continue to have periodic blood tests and scans. No further treatment is needed at this time.”
Professor Otis Brawley, who specializes in medical oncology and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, said the radiation Ginsburg received is a “very typical” course of treatment for someone of her age. He added that the treatment can be effective, ultimately resulting in “no sign of disease” for some patients.
J. Randolph Hecht, a professor and Director of the UCLA Gastrointestinal Oncology Program, also said radiation therapy was “pretty good at controlling the tumor where it is” inside the body. He also noted that a malignant cancer on the pancreas was likely to be pancreatic cancer, which he said was becoming a more common killer.
Ginsburg previously battled early pancreatic cancer in 2009, and Hecht said her doctors catching the disease early was key to her beating it.
“One thing she has going for her, is that she's being looked at and you catch things early,” he said.
Brawley said that Ginsburg’s well-known commitment to her physical heath could help her bounce back from the treatment.
“A person is athletic and in good shape is someone who is likely to do better from treatment,” he said, referencing the justice’s habit of lifting weights and spending time at the gym. “If you’re going to be an 80-year-old dealing with this issue, you want to be the woman who goes to the weight room every so often. It could lead to a better prognosis.”
Besides her current and 2009 cancer battles, Ginsburg also underwent colon cancer surgery in 1999 and had surgery to remove cancerous nodules from her left lung late last year.
Brawley said multiple bouts of cancer are “common” for those who have already survived one, and said patients who have dealt with cancer have “genetics [that] predispose them to other cancers.”