Ruth Bader Ginsburg mid workout in "RBG" (Magnolia Pictures)

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's fractured ribs led to discovery of lung cancer

The Supreme Court justice had cancerous cells removed during surgery on Friday


Rachel LeahShira Tarlo
December 21, 2018 6:50PM (UTC)

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had two cancerous nodules removed from her left lung Friday at a New York hospital, the Court said Friday.

There is no evidence of any remaining disease or evidence of disease elsewhere in the body, the Court said. No further treatment is planned. "Justice Ginsburg is resting comfortably and is expected to remain in the hospital for a few days. Updates will be provided as they become available," the Court said in a statement.

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Ginsburg was hospitalized last month after a fall in her office, in which she fractured three ribs. According to NPR, the cancer was discovered at that time.

Ginsburg has had a series of health problems. She's a two-time cancer survivor — she was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1999 and pancreatic cancer in 2009. In 2012, she fractured two ribs in a fall. In 2014, she underwent a procedure to have a stent implanted to open a blocked coronary artery.

Appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, Ginsburg was the second woman appointed to the nation's highest court. She rejected suggestions from some Democrats that she should step down in the first two years of President Barack Obama's second term, when Democrats also held a majority in the Senate and would likely have had little trouble nominating and confirming her successor.

At 85, Ginsburg's work on the court remains in full swing and she has indicated she has no plans to retire anytime soon. She penned three of the highest court's 13 decisions last term and has hired clerks for the term that extends into 2020.

Ginsburg leads the court's liberal wing and is widely heralded as a trailblazer in advocating for women's rights. When he nominated her to the nation's highest court, Clinton compared her legal work to promote women's rights to the work of former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall's on behalf of African-Americans.

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Ginsburg's pre-professional life was invigorated and marred by entering spaces where few women had been before. She attended Harvard Law School in 1956 in a class of nine women and about 500 men. Her position there and her credibility were constantly questioned. Ginsburg recalled the dean asking the female students there: "How do you justify taking a spot from a qualified man?"

Ginsburg has become a pop culture icon and liberal hero, known in some circles as "the Great Dissenter" for her sharp dissents on the Supreme Court, and in others as "Notorious RBG," after another Brooklyn legend. She continues to balance her soft-spoken tone with her unrelenting determination regarding her work and trains to stay in fighting shape, doing 20 push-ups and minute-long planks to prove it.


Rachel Leah

Rachel Leah is a culture writer for Salon. You can follow her on Twitter: @rachelkleah.

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Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

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