U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is expected to remain hospitalized for the next several days after undergoing surgery for pancreatic cancer in New York.
The Supreme Court issued a statement that said Justice Ginsburg underwent surgery after the cancer was discovered during a recent routine exam.
Her surgeon said she will remain in the hospital for seven to 10 days, and the court announcement said the cancer was apparently in the early stages.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly forms of cancer. The American Cancer Society says fewer than five percent of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive five years.
At the White House, presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters that he informed President Barack Obama about her condition.
"I went to talk to the president about the news that Justice Ginsburg had surgery for pancreatic cancer," he said. "His thoughts and prayers are with her and her family right now and we hope for and wish her a speedy recovery."
Justice Ginsburg is 75 years old and has served on the Supreme Court since 1993 after being appointed by former President Bill Clinton.
"She is a reliable liberal vote on the court and she has been ever since President Clinton appointed her in 1993," said Andrew Cohen, a legal analyst for CBS News. "At that point, she was the second female justice of the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O'Connor being the first. She has been against President Bush's policies on terrorism, on the economy, on corporate cases."
Ginsburg is one of nine Supreme Court Justices who are appointed for life by the president, subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Former President George Bush, who left office last month, appointed two justices during his time in office. John Roberts became chief justice in 2005 following the death of William Rehnquist, and Samuel Alito joined the court in 2006 following the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor.
Over the past several years, the high court has often been split five to four in a number of important cases, with conservatives usually in the majority.
President Obama could have an opportunity to alter that ratio on the court depending on whether vacancies arise during his time in office.