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Ginsburg's cancer has not spread

Associated Press / February 14, 2009
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WASHINGTON - Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's cancer was found at the earliest stage and has not spread beyond her pancreas, the court said yesterday.

The 75-year-old justice returned to her home in Washington yesterday, after being released from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, where she underwent pancreas surgery.

The one-centimeter growth that doctors initially spotted during a CT scan in late January turned out, upon analysis, to be benign. But a second, even smaller tumor found by her surgeon, Dr. Murray Brennan, was malignant, the court said. Doctors classified the cancer as early stage, or Stage 1.

Tests on Ginsburg's lymph nodes revealed no cancer and doctors found no spread of it elsewhere, the court said.

Brennan removed Ginsburg's spleen and a portion of the pancreas Feb. 5.

Ginsburg has indicated that she will be at the court Feb. 23, when the justices next hear arguments. Cancer specialists said it is possible that Ginsburg may avoid chemotherapy because of the small size of the tumor and the absence of cancer in her lymph nodes. "Many would elect not to do anything further here," said Dr. Suresh Chari, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

The course of her illness so far strongly demonstrates the benefits of early detection. Ginsburg had been suffering no symptoms and was undergoing a routine physical when doctors spotted a growth on her pancreas.

As a survivor of colon cancer, Ginsburg would be expected to have regular checkups that look for growths in that part of the body. Doctors removed a cancerous growth from her colon in 1999 and she underwent chemotherapy and radiation.

Last week, when Brennan began the surgery and found the second, malignant growth, the tumor's small size and location allowed him to perform the easier of the operations used on pancreatic cancer patients.

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