- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday due to complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer.
- She received her first cancer diagnosis 20 years ago but remained on the U.S. Supreme Court bench.
- Despite multiple cancer diagnoses, Ginsburg was able to continue working up until her death.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, only the second woman ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, died Sept. 18.
Over the last 2 decades, Ginsburg also became a high-profile example of a person able to live and work while receiving cancer treatment.
She received diagnoses with three types of cancer over the last 20 years but was able to stay and work on the Supreme Court.
She died Friday due to complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer, the court said in a statement.
First diagnosed with cancer more than 20 years ago
Ginsburg was known for her lengthy record fighting for women’s rights and gender equality before being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature. We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence, that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her — a tireless and resolute champion of justice,” Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. said in a statement.
Ginsburg was able to continue working despite a years-long battle against cancer that started in 1999, after she received a colon cancer diagnosis.
Doctors performed surgery, likely followed by chemotherapy, reported The Washington Post.
Ginsburg underwent further treatment in 2009 for early stage pancreatic cancer.
“All lymph nodes proved negative for cancer and no metastasis [spreading to other organs] was found,” according to a press release from the court.
Experts say with her diagnosis, Ginsburg survived far longer than might be expected.
According to the National Cancer Institute, pancreatic cancer only has a 10 percent 5-year survival rate.
“It is likely that she surpassed the odds,” Dr. James Elder, an internist at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest in Fort Worth, Texas, told Healthline.
“Justice Ginsburg had good underlying health, by reports, so that certainly helped her survivability. Her situation also demonstrates that the factors which promote progression of cancer are not always well known,” he said.
She received a lung cancer diagnosis during treatment for a fall in December 2018, when two cancerous nodules in the lower lobe of her left lung were found, according to the court. Doctors removed a lobe at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
Dr. Robert Miller, a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, who wasn’t involved in Ginsburg’s care, told CNN that a patient whose lungs are otherwise healthy “can recover from [a lobectomy] and not really notice significant impairment.”
In July, Ginsburg’s pancreatic cancer returned, reported the Associated Press (AP).
She received chemotherapy but insisted she would remain a member of the Supreme Court as long as she could “do the job full steam.”
“I remain fully able to do that,” she said in a statement.
According to the AP, Ginsburg said a medical scan in February revealed growths on her liver. She began chemotherapy in May.
The bottom line
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday of complications related to pancreatic cancer.
Ginsburg fought recurrent diagnoses of cancer over the past 20 years. Despite health setbacks, she continued her work as an active member of the court.
While pancreatic cancer typically has a poor 5-year survival rate, Ginsburg lived more than 10 years from her initial diagnosis.