On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had completed three weeks of treatment for a malignant tumor on her pancreas. The treatment started on Aug. 5 after the malignant tumor was discovered by biopsy on July 31. From USA Today:
“The abnormality was first detected after a routine blood test in early July,” the Supreme Court said in a statement Friday. ”The tumor was treated definitively and there is no evidence of disease elsewhere in her body. Justice Ginsburg will continue to have periodic blood tests and scans. No further treatment is needed at this time.”
Ginsburg is 86, and has undergone cancer treatment before, for pancreatic, lung, and colorectal cancer, and she underwent a serious heart procedure in 2014.
Clearly, this raises concerns that go beyond Ginsburg’s health, and speak to the balance of power on the Supreme Court itself. Currently, there are five conservative justices who hold a slim majority, but if another “liberal” justice like Ginsburg were to leave the court, it would allow Trump to swing the court into a more solid 6-3 conservative majority, essentially entrenching that ideology for years to come (barring a fundamental restructuring of the court).
As USA Today reported, this is, even by cancer standards, a deadly form of the disease:
When the tumor is only in the pancreas and doesn’t spread, the five-year survival rate is 37 percent, according to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, or PanCAN.
However, this form of cancer is one of the world’s deadliest and overall still has a five-year survival rate of just 9 percent, according to the American Cancer Society’s 2019 Cancer Facts & Figures Report. This is because oftentimes the disease does spread elsewhere throughout the body.
All that said, we’re not privy to exact information on what Ginsburg’s treatment looked like, or whether a part of her pancreas was removed. For now, the most we know is that she’s recovered, and will continue serving on the court. She may have years left, or it may be tough to serve out the remainder of Trump’s term. In any case, the news is rough on two fronts—another hit to Ginsburg’s health, and the fact that it brings us closer to ironclad conservative dominance in the nation’s highest court.