Despite the widespread media insistence that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s lung cancer operation was not serious, reports are beginning to seep out that indicate that her situation may be more dire than is being let on.
James Hamblin, a health expert writing for The Atlantic, indicates that Ginsberg’s operation could indicate that metastatic cancer is a concern: (emphasis added)
…if you have two separate malignant nodules in your lung and you do not smoke, doctors worry that this means they represent metastatic disease from a cancer somewhere else.
This is especially true if the patient has a history of cancer, as Ginsburg does. She had early-stage colon and pancreatic cancers removed in 1999 and 2009, respectively.
The pathology report can tell us if the malignant cells are lung cancer—meaning a rare case of two simultaneous new lung cancers in a nonsmoker—or if they represent a recurrence of metastatic colon or pancreatic cancer, or if they are of some other origin. If this is the case, it would raise concern that although current scans showed no evidence of metastatic disease elsewhere, there could be yet-undetectable cancer cells already seeded in Ginsburg’s body.
The fact that the statement says the nodules are indeed malignant means that at least a preliminary pathology report has been done, but this crucial detail—what type of malignancy?—was either unclear or withheld from the statement. It reads only: “According to the thoracic surgeon, Valerie W. Rusch, MD, FACS, both nodules removed during surgery were found to be malignant on initial pathology evaluation.” (I emailed Rusch, who told me, “We have no additional information on the pathology at the present time.”)
Cancer is a terrible scourge, and we hope that Justice Ginsberg makes a full recovery. All Americans, regardless of political affiliation, should pray for Justice Ginsberg during this trying time.
It’s important to hold the media to a high standard of truth in their reporting about the issue. As Hamblin notes in his piece “Ginsburg is a public figure whose health status is of particular consequence to American citizens.”