Does Ruth Bader Ginsburg Have Cancer?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been through a lot this year. But recently, there were reports that she’d had cancerous nodules removed. Medical terminology can be confusing, and it’s left us all wondering: Does the Notorious RBG have cancer?

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks at an annual Women's History Month

Ruth Bader Ginsburg | Allison Shelley/Getty Images

Ginsburg fell earlier this year and fractured several ribs

Earlier this year, Ginsburg was in her office when she had a bad fall that broke several of her ribs. Ginsburg is 85, so her bones are naturally more fragile than someone who is younger and in better health. All things considered, the 85-year-old recovered fairly quickly. She spent a few days in the hospital, but before long, she was back in her Chambers. She only missed one non-argument session while she was injured. Ginsburg works out quite a bit, which likely helped in her quick recovery. She said in an interview earlier this year that she thinks she has at least five more years on the Supreme Court. She noted that Justice John Paul Stevens stepped down when he was 90.

While taking x-rays, doctors noticed lung abnormalities

When Ginsburg had her initial fall, she required x-rays in order for doctors to properly assess her injury. According to NPR, when Ginsburg had a CT scan, doctors noticed something was amiss with her lungs. Doctors took a further look and realized Ginsburg had cancerous nodules. A nodule is a small lump of cells in the body, and nodules can be either benign or malignant. In Ginsburg’s case, her cells were malignant, and she would require surgery to remove the cancer.

She recently had to undergo a lobotomy to have cancerous nodules removed, and now she is cancer free

Ginsburg underwent the surgery to remove the nodules, and according to a press release from the Supreme Court, the cancerous nodules were entirely removed and there appeared to be no other evidence of cancer in her body. Ginsburg has already survived cancer two other times in her life, and if anyone can handle a third, it’s her. Previously, she survived colon cancer. And even more surprisingly, she made a full recovery after having pancreatic cancer. (Less than 5% of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer live more than five years.) But doctors seem very hopeful with her current prognosis and have no additional treatments planned. This means she is essentially cancer free now that the nodules have been removed.  She likely stayed quiet about the cancer until after the surgery because doctors told her the prognosis was good. After all, she probably didn’t want the public knowing she was battling cancer for a third time.

In typical RBG fashion, she’s hoping to return to the Supreme Court in January

Ginsburg doesn’t appear to be hanging up her robe any time soon. She may be 85, but as she said herself, she believes she has at least five years left before retirement. The Supreme Court takes a winter break, but as long as everything with her recovery goes well, she’s hoping to be back at her position when the Court resumes in January.

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