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Supreme Court’s Ginsburg Has Surgery for Pancreatic Cancer

BY Admin  February 5, 2009 at 3:55 PM EDT

Justice Ginsburg; Photo by flickr.com/changedotgov

Ginsburg was appointed to the court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. Considered part of the court’s left-leaning bloc, Ginsburg, 75, is the second woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who retired in 2006.

Ginsburg 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 said Ginsburg had no symptoms prior to the discovery of a lesion during a routine annual check-up in late January at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. A subsequent CT Scan revealed a small tumor, approximately 1 cm across, in the center of the pancreas.

In 1999, Ginsburg had surgery for colon cancer and had chemotherapy and radiation treatment. During that bout with cancer, Ginsburg received treatment throughout the court’s term and never missed a day on the bench, according to the Associated Press.

The court next hears arguments on Feb. 23.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Thursday afternoon that President Barack Obama “has not talked with the justice, but his thoughts and prayers are with her and her family right now,”the Washington Post reported.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly cancers: Nearly 38,000 cases a year are diagnosed and overall, fewer than 5 percent of patients survive five years.

Part of the reason for its high fatality rate is the difficulty with catching the disease at any early stage — like Ginsburg’s appears to be. Fewer than one in 10 cases are diagnosed at an early stage, allowing the cancer to spread to other parts of the abdomen.

Ginsburg was born in 1933 in Brooklyn, N.Y. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and attended Harvard Law School before earning a degree from Columbia Law School.