When I first heard the news in my Twitter stream (from @sciam) that Ruth Bader Ginsburg has pancreatic cancer, I immediately thought 'uh-oh'. It's usually a deadly disease because the symptoms are caught late and is one of the most malignant and deadly carcinomas unless caught early. The last year has seen the loss of Randy Pausch and Gene Upshaw to the disease, while Patrick Swayze is still valiantly fighting it and Steve Jobs has a much rarer form of neuroendocrine tumour associated with the islets of langerhans that can be treated with surgery, although it can lead to disruption in metabolism.
Image via Wikipedia
The good news is that on my return, I checked the news updates and found that she was attending Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer for surgery to remove a small 1cm lesion from her pancreas. When caught early, like most carcinomas, pancreatic cancer is curable, so the signs are fortuitious at least. The Wall Street Journal Health Blog has a nice synopsis of the disease and what it means for anyone interested.
Ginsburg previously had chemotherapy and radiotherapy back in 1999 for colon cancer and recovered strongly. It will be an interesting term in the Supreme Court without her as she will likely be out of action for a period. In an increasingly conservative court, she will be much missed. Back in 2007 she vented her frustration with the court's
increasingly right tone by writing two sharp dissents and reading them from the
I wish her well for a quick and speedy recovery.