What is a Pulmonary Lobectomy? What Does Malignant Mean? Ruth Bader Ginsburg Undergoes Surgery

Friday afternoon the Supreme Court announced that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York for two nodules found on her lungs.

The nodes were discovered last month when the justice received tests for fractured ribs following a fall. The nodes were found on the lower lobe of her left lung, according to the release.

Friday, Justice Ginsburg's surgeon confirmed that the nodes were removed during surgery and on initial testing were found to be malignant. On initial pathology evaluation, the nodes were found to be cancerous, but they were removed completely and there was no sign that any cancerous cells were left behind. Additionally, scans done before her surgery revealed that there was no sign of the cancer anywhere else in her body, and thus there was no plan for further treatment, according to the release.

A pulmonary lobectomy like the one reportedly done on Ginsburg is surgery done to remove a part of the lung that is diseased. Pulmonary simply indicates that the lobectomy will happen in the lungs.

The lungs have five lobes total, three in the right lung and two in the left. The fact that the surgery is typically done on patients with nonsmall cell lung cancer indicates that's likely the type Ginsburg was diagnosed with. "If you have nonsmall cell lung cancer that has not spread beyond one lung, surgery to remove the tumor completely provides the best chance for a cure," says the Memorial Sloan Kettering site.

The Memorial Sloan Kettering website says the lobectomy is done to remove a lobe of the lung: "This is the most common operation performed for non-small cell lung cancer and is the best treatment for an isolated lung cancer in an otherwise healthy patient."

The fact that the nodes removed from Justice Ginsburg were malignant means the growths were abnormal in a way that indicates cancerous cells. Memorial Sloan Kettering, the hospital where Ginsburg was treated, is one of the top cancer centers in the world, according to U.S. News and World Report rankings.

"Justice Ginsburg is resting comfortably and is expected to remain in the hospital for a few days," said the Supreme Court. More updates on her status were expected as more news became available. Those updates would likely come from the Supreme Court and be available online.

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg arrives at a lecture at Georgetown University Law Center, in Washington, D.C., on September 26. She underwent a pulmonary lobotomy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, in New York, on December 21. Alex Wong/Getty Images