Ginsburg has pancreatic cancer

February 5, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had surgery Thursday after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the court said. Ginsburg, 75, had the surgery at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. She will remain in the hospital for seven to 10 days, said her surgeon, Dr. Murray Brennan, according to a release issued by the court.

The court announcement said the cancer is apparently in the early stages.

In 1999, Ginsburg, had surgery for colon cancer and had chemotherapy and radiation treatment. She has been a justice since 1993.

The pancreatic cancer was discovered during a routine, annual exam late last month at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

A CAT scan revealed a tumor measuring about 1 centimeter across the center of the pancreas, the court said. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly cancers: Nearly 38,000 cases a year are diagnosed and overall, fewer than 5 percent survive five years.

The reason: Fewer than one in 10 cases are diagnosed at an early stage -- like Ginsburg's appears to be -- before the cancer has begun spreading through the abdomen and beyond. That's because early pancreatic cancer produces few symptoms other than vague indigestion.

Even when caught early, surgery for pancreatic cancer is arduous. Doctors typically remove parts of the pancreas, stomach and intestines. Radiation and chemotherapy are common after surgery.

Ginsburg has recently told her former law clerks and others that she had no plans to retire any time soon, although those comments were made before the latest diagnosis.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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