AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
The U.S. Supreme Court disclosed today that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has completed three weeks of specialized radiation treatment for a cancerous tumor on her pancreas. This follows her surgery in December for lung cancer. Joining us now is NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.
Nina, welcome back.
NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Nice to be here.
CORNISH: Now, I want to start with the timeline. What have you learned?
TOTENBERG: Well, the court said that, in July, there were some suspicious blood tests that led to a biopsy that showed that the justice had a cancerous tumor on her pancreas. Five days later she began a very specialized kind of new, cutting-edge radiation treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering in - Cancer Center in New York.
It was a three-week course of treatment. Doctors said that she did well with the treatment, that there is no evidence of cancer elsewhere in the body, and that no further treatment is needed as of now, anyway. So she finished her treatment today and went back to work.
CORNISH: Right, so a quick...
TOTENBERG: In Washington - flew back to Washington and went back to work.
CORNISH: Right, a quick return to work. It sounds like no one knew she was doing this.
TOTENBERG: Well, her doctors knew, and she decided apparently that she would announce it when she had completed the treatment course, and that is done now. She - while she was in New York, she kept up a pretty hectic pace.
She not only continued to work, she was out and around town, spotted at movies, at theater, even met Kate McKinnon of "Saturday Night Live" at the Yiddish production of "Fiddler On The Roof," and they shook hands for the first time - spotted window shopping on Madison Avenue, trying on shoes. So she was not acting like a sick person when she was in New York.
CORNISH: Can you talk about how serious this is? I mean, what do you make of it?
TOTENBERG: Well, I think there's no way to say this isn't serious. I mean, nobody really knows, at least in the outside world. She's had cancer three times before, over the course of 20 years, and that complicates things.
I spoke to Dr. Timothy Cannon, a gastrointestinal oncology specialist at Inova's Schar Cancer Institute in Virginia today. He wasn't involved in her treatment. But he said one question that we really don't know the answer to was what kind of cancer this is. Is it a slow-growing metastasis of her lung cancer from last December? Is it a recurrence of her pancreatic cancer from 10 years ago, which he said would be highly unusual? Or is it a new pancreatic cancer in someone who is predisposed to getting cancer?
So this is - you know, the type of treatment that she's getting, he said, is aimed at controlling cancer, not at curing it. And so that's where we are now, I think. And what that means for the future of the Supreme Court and Justice Ginsburg and our body politic remains to be seen.
CORNISH: That's NPR's Nina Totenberg.
Nina, thanks so much.
TOTENBERG: Thank you.