Politics

Supreme Court's Ginsburg says she's being treated for liver cancer, but still working 'full steam'

Key Points
  • Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced she is being treated for liver cancer but remains able to work "full steam."
  • The 87-year-old justice said she began a course of chemotherapy in May to treat a recurrence of cancer after a February scan revealed lesions on her liver. 
  • "Immunotherapy first essayed proved unsuccessful. The chemotherapy course, however, is yielding positive results. Satisfied that my treatment course is now clear, I am providing this information," Ginsburg said.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg participates in taking a new family photo with her fellow justices at the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., U.S., June 1, 2017.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Friday she is being treated for liver cancer but remains able to work "full steam."

The 87-year-old justice said she began a course of chemotherapy in May to treat a recurrence of cancer after a February scan revealed lesions on her liver. 

"Immunotherapy first essayed proved unsuccessful. The chemotherapy course, however, is yielding positive results. Satisfied that my treatment course is now clear, I am providing this information," Ginsburg said in a statement. 

Ginsburg, a liberal, is the court's eldest justice. The court has a 5-4 majority of Republican-appointed justices, and a vacancy could allow President Donald Trump to nominate a conservative replacement.

Ginsburg said her most recent scan was conducted on July 7 and showed "significant reduction of the liver lesions and no new disease."

"I am tolerating chemotherapy well and am encouraged by the success of my current treatment. I will continue bi-weekly chemotherapy to keep my cancer at bay, and am able to maintain an active daily routine," Ginsburg said.

VIDEO0:4800:48
Ruth Bader Ginsburg undergoes lung procedure to remove cancerous growth

She added: "Throughout, I have kept up with opinion writing and all other Court work. I have often said I would remain a member of the Court as long as I can do the job full steam. I remain fully able to do that."

Ginsburg has wrestled with a slew of health problems, including multiple cancer scares in recent years. On Wednesday, she was discharged from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore after being admitted the day before with a possible infection. A court spokesperson said Wednesday that she was "home and doing well."

While hospitalized in May for a benign gallbladder condition, Ginsburg called into the court's arguments over Trump rules expanding exemptions to the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate. The arguments were held over the phone as a precaution against the spread of Covid-19. 

Ginsburg said those hospitalizations were "unrelated" to the recent cancer recurrence. 

The court will next hear arguments in October. 

Ginsburg has been treated for colon and pancreatic cancer and in 2018 underwent a procedure to remove cancerous growths from one of her lungs. 

Possible control of the court is one of the most sought after prizes in November's presidential contest. Trump, who has already named two conservative justices to the bench, has made his appointments to the top court and the rest of the federal judiciary a signature element of his campaign.

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg's journey from child of immigrants to the Supreme Court

The GOP has a majority in the Senate, which must approve presidential nominations to the court, and is fighting to keep its hold on the chamber in the November election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he would work to fill any vacancy on the court that opened up in 2020. 

Trump reacted to the news earlier in the week that Ginsburg had been hospitalized by saying that "I wish her the absolute best."

Ginsburg's full statement is below.

"On May 19, I began a course of chemotherapy (gemcitabine) to treat a recurrence of cancer. A periodic scan in February followed by a biopsy revealed lesions on my liver. My recent hospitalizations to remove gall stones and treat an infection were unrelated to this recurrence.

Immunotherapy first essayed proved unsuccessful. The chemotherapy course, however, is yielding positive results. Satisfied that my treatment course is now clear, I am providing this information.

My most recent scan on July 7 indicated significant reduction of the liver lesions and no new disease. I am tolerating chemotherapy well and am encouraged by the success of my current treatment. I will continue bi-weekly chemotherapy to keep my cancer at bay, and am able to maintain an active daily routine. Throughout, I have kept up with opinion writing and all other Court work.

I have often said I would remain a member of the Court as long as I can do the job full steam. I remain fully able to do that."

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's name.