Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation Statement on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Lung Surgery and Accidental Diagnosis

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Julia Spiess
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SAN CARLOS, CA (December 21, 2018) – Today, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85, underwent a lung procedure to remove malignant lung nodules. Doctors discovered the nodules during tests to treat rib fractures from a fall in November.

Below is a statement from Bonnie J. Addario, founder and chair of the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and lung cancer survivor, who was also accidentally diagnosed and paid for her own full body scan. She is available for interviews if you are reporting on Justice Ginsberg’s surgery. I can also put you in touch with lung cancer physicians as well as patients who have also been accidentally diagnosed. (See Taylor Bell’s story below.)

“It was not that long ago that it was rare to be diagnosed with lung cancer and live more than a few years. Now, with so many treatment options and tools to diagnose the disease more accurately, survivorship is on the rise. Early detection is more common for many diseases, including breast, colon or prostate cancer. Massive advocacy and funding efforts have helped the public understand that with early detection, a cancer diagnosis doesn’t mean an absolute death sentence. Unfortunately, however, for the country’s deadliest cancer, lung cancer, early detection still only happens as a rare or accidental occurrence, even though lung cancer kills more Americans every single year than these other cancers combined. Once early screening becomes routine, perhaps then we can turn a ravaging cancer into a manageable disease, and luck will no longer need to be a factor in our approach to this disease.”

Patient Story
Taylor Bell Duck was a 19-year-old collegiate soccer player. She was in the best shape of her life, but for some reason could not pass her school’s fitness exam. After numerous doctor visits with no results, the discouraged athlete assumed her best times were over and quit the team. After a spate of respiratory illnesses and numerous prescriptions of antibiotics from her campus’ student health services clinic, Taylor’s mother called the clinic and begged for her daughter to receive a chest x-ray.

The clinic gave in to the pressure, the x-ray showed a mass, but it was quickly dismissed, and neither Taylor nor her family was told about it – simply because she was a 21-year-old student. A few months later, stomach pain and suspected appendicitis landed her in the ER. A CT scan of her abdomen and pelvis showed she had a lung mass, a collapsed left lung and early signs of cancer. Taylor’s life was saved, but by an accidental discovery revealed by a CT scan ordered for unrelated concerns.

Lung Cancer Facts

  • If you can catch lung cancer before it spreads, the likelihood of surviving five years or more improves to 55 percent.
    In 2018 alone, physicians diagnosed nearly 225,000 new cases of lung cancer in the U.S., and an estimated 165,000 people will die of the disease.
  • Two-thirds of new lung cancer patients never smoked or quit decades ago.
  • Lung cancer takes more lives than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined.
  • Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in every ethnic group and since 1987 has killed more women every year than breast cancer.
  • The five-year survival rate for lung cancer has changed little in nearly 50 years – from 12 percent in 1970 to 17 percent today.