Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Health Scares: ‘I’m Cancer-Free’

January 8, 2020 Updated: January 8, 2020
FONT BFONT SText size

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced this week that the treatment she has been receiving for pancreatic cancer has been successful after she was diagnosed last year.

Ginsburg, 86, told CNN that her year started fine: “I’m cancer-free. That’s good.”

In August, Ginsburg underwent several weeks of radiation therapy for a malignant tumor on her pancreas, forcing her to miss work. The treatment started Aug. 5 at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

In recent years, namely after President Donald Trump took office, the octogenarian associate justice’s health has been the subject of intense scrutiny because if she were to step down, Trump would be able to name a conservative judge to the Supreme Court. The move would tip the court in favor of conservatives after he appointed Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.

Before that, the tumor was discovered after a routine blood test weeks earlier. A stent was placed and Ginsburg responded well to the treatment, the Supreme Court said.

“The tumor was treated definitively and there is no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body,” a Supreme Court press statement read at the time.

Last month, she addressed working with the other Supreme Court justices while speaking at a gala.

U.S. Supreme Court Justices
(Front L–R) U.S. Supreme Court justices Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito, (Back L–R) Neil Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Brett Kavanaugh at the Supreme Court building on Nov. 30, 2018. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“As different as we are, the court is the collegial place I’ve ever worked,” she said in December. “And I can tell you that from a personal experience surviving four cancer bouts with my colleagues around me and made it possible for me not to miss a single case.”

In December 2018, Ginsburg, who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton, was diagnosed and treated for lung cancer. Part of her left lung was removed, forcing her to miss arguments in January.

She also suffered colorectal cancer in 1999 and pancreatic cancer in 2009.

Ginsburg was hospitalized again right before Thanksgiving 2019 with “chills and a fever,” but she was released a day later. “With intravenous antibiotics and fluids, her symptoms have abated,” the court said in a statement.

And in 2019, Ginsburg told an audience that she was on her way to “being very well,” Reuters reported. “This audience can see that I am alive. And I’m on my way to being very well,” she said. “I love my job. It is the best and hardest job that I ever had.”

Ginsburg has previously stated that she will remain on the Supreme Court as long as her health permits.