Celebrated every year in March, Women’s History Month commemorates the contributions and accomplishments of women throughout history. This year, we’re sharing the stories of some of the most notable women in the mesothelioma community to give hope to those fighting this rare cancer caused by asbestos.

Although women are less likely to develop mesothelioma than men, they play a critical role in treating, supporting, and advocating for asbestos victims.

Learn more about how this cancer affects female patients and read about noteworthy women in the world of mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma in Women

Women make up about 25% of mesothelioma cases, likely due to a decreased risk of on-the-job asbestos exposure compared to men.

In fact, only about 0.41 out of every 100,000 women will face a mesothelioma diagnosis, compared to 1.93 out of every 100,000 men.

While women are less likely to develop mesothelioma, they have a much better prognosis (disease outlook) than men. Women seem to recover from surgery better than men, possibly contributing to higher survival rates or likelihood of living beyond a certain timeframe.

Did You Know?

Women with mesothelioma have a 5-year survival rate of 13.4% compared to 4.5% in men. This means about 13% of women are still alive 5 years after being diagnosed with this cancer.

Some researchers have attributed this higher survival rate to the fact that women are more likely to develop peritoneal mesothelioma, which responds to treatment much better than pleural mesothelioma, the most common type of this cancer.

These differences in prognosis and survival open many interesting avenues for study that have the potential to improve treatment for all patients.

Learn about mesothelioma prognosis, survival rates, and treatment in our Free Mesothelioma Guide.

Female Advocates for the Mesothelioma Community

Many women have devoted their lives to the fight against mesothelioma. They provide vital support and services to patients with mesothelioma and their families and have taken action to prevent future generations from experiencing this devastating cancer.

Learn about some of the notable female advocates for mesothelioma below.

Linda Reinstein

Linda Reinstein’s journey as a mesothelioma advocate began when her husband was diagnosed with the disease in 2003. Just one year later, she co-founded the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), which is now one of the largest non-profit organizations focused on advocating for asbestos victims.

“My story is only one of so many others of mesothelioma hitting home. I hope our advocacy work can result in eliminating asbestos diseases completely by banning asbestos in all its uses so no one else has to feel this grief.”

- Quote from Linda Reinstein, ADAO President and Co-founder

Linda has testified before Congress on multiple occasions and has given hundreds of speeches in 20 countries to raise awareness of mesothelioma and the ongoing threat of asbestos. She uses her skills and experience to bring together and give a voice to those affected by this cancer-causing mineral.

Barbara McQueen

Barbara Minty McQueen was a model in the 1970s and is the widow of actor Steve McQueen. The couple was married for just over three years before Steve died of mesothelioma.

Since 2012, Barbara has worked as a mesothelioma advocate and board member of ADAO. She also wrote a book called Steve McQueen: The Last Mile about her life and marriage, including her experiences as Steve’s caregiver during the final six months of his life.

Mary Hesdorffer

Mary is a retired nurse practitioner who devoted 20 years of her career to treating patients with mesothelioma. During this time, she lent her expertise to several clinical trials and had her research published in many peer-reviewed journals.

Mary served as the executive director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, where she used her voice and experience to advocate for improved communication between doctors and patients before her retirement in 2021. She also helped patients understand their legal options after a mesothelioma diagnosis.

Female Mesothelioma Doctors

Mesothelioma doctors are working every day to find a cure for this cancer and to help their patients live longer, fuller lives. They’re also conducting groundbreaking research to discover new and more effective treatment options.

Learn about some of the female doctors leading these efforts.

Dr. Anne Tsao

Dr. Anne Tsao is a medical oncologist (cancer doctor) at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She specializes in treating pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs, and is an internationally recognized expert in her field.

In addition to her work treating patients, Dr. Tsao is an innovative researcher who helped develop proton therapy as a treatment for mesothelioma. She is a widely published author whose continued study of mesothelioma on a molecular level is avidly followed.

Dr. Andrea Wolf

Dr. Andrea Wolf is a thoracic surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. She trained under the esteemed mesothelioma specialist Dr. David Sugarbaker, who developed the extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) procedure.

“I really try to make sure patients know that it’s gonna be challenging, but they’re gonna be okay. A lot of people go on living for years with mesothelioma.”

- Quote from Dr. Andrea Wolf, Thoracic Surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital

Dr. Wolf believes that a patient-centered approach to treatment is critical for every patient. She also incorporates multiple treatment approaches for patients into her research. Most recently she has been exploring if immunotherapy can improve a patient’s response to surgery.

Dr. Hedy Lee Kindler

Dr. Hedy Lee Kindler is one of the premier mesothelioma specialists in the United States. For over 20 years, she has researched vital, life-extending treatment improvements, helping her patients beat the odds.

Dr. Kindler treats patients with peritoneal and pleural mesothelioma at the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Call (866) 608-8933 now to get help finding a mesothelioma specialist near you.

Female Mesothelioma Survivors

Survivors are always at the center of mesothelioma advocacy, sharing their stories to help support other patients going through treatment. Read about some of these mesothelioma survivors and their impacts within the larger patient community below.


  • Diagnosis: Peritoneal mesothelioma
  • Year of Diagnosis: 2007
  • Treatment: Surgery and chemotherapy

Alexis couldn’t remember how she was exposed to asbestos, which made her diagnosis of peritoneal mesothelioma at age 37 even more shocking. She went from a busy life working two jobs to getting cytoreductive surgery with chemotherapy to remove her cancer

She has survived mesothelioma for over 16 years and continues to share her story with others to help them through their battles.


  • Diagnosis: Peritoneal mesothelioma
  • Year of Diagnosis: 2010
  • Treatment: Surgery and chemotherapy

Ginger was only 40 years old when she was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2010. Her family was already struggling with her husband’s diagnosis of a benign brain tumor, which left him unable to work.

Even while she was undergoing aggressive treatment for her mesothelioma, Ginger never stopped fighting for the type of life she wanted. She continued going on mission trips with her church to help children and families abroad and currently dedicates her time to volunteering with mesothelioma survivors and their families.


  • Diagnosis: Peritoneal mesothelioma
  • Year of Diagnosis: 2006
  • Treatment: Surgery with heated chemotherapy

Julie is a nationally recognized 17+ year mesothelioma survivor. When she was diagnosed in 2006, she was determined to fight so she could see her daughter grow up.

Over the years, Julie has become a powerful voice for a full ban on asbestos in the U.S. and has helped educate the public about the risks of this dangerous mineral.

To read more stories of hope from fellow mesothelioma patients, get our Free Survivors Guide now.

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Remembering Notable Women Who Lost Their Lives to Mesothelioma

While Mesothelioma Hope celebrates the women who are leading the fight against mesothelioma, we also remember those whose brave battles have ended. Their lives and accomplishments have moved us forward and allowed others to pick up the torch and continue lighting the way to a cure.

Mary Jane

Mary Jane was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2003. The cancer was discovered during gallbladder surgery and came as a significant shock.

Mary Jane and her family quickly sought treatment and support, and after a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, she was declared cancer-free.

Mary Jane became known as a speaker and advocate for other patients across the country throughout her 15-year journey as a mesothelioma survivor. She passed away from Alzheimer’s disease in 2018, but her story will never be forgotten.

Donna Summer

Five-time Grammy winner Donna Summer was widely regarded as the queen of disco. Her career spanned more than four decades and included numerous hit songs like “Last Dance.”

She died in 2012 at the age of 63 after a long battle with pleural mesothelioma, which she attributed to breathing in the asbestos particles released into the air during the 9/11 attacks.

Trisha Noble

Trisha Noble had a decades-long career as a pop star and actress. She starred in television shows and movies, including the Star Wars prequels, where she played the mother of Padmé Amidala.

Noble died in 2021, only days before her 77th birthday. Her death was caused by complications from mesothelioma.

Ann Ebsworth

In 1992, Dame Ann Ebsworth was the first woman to be directly appointed to Queen Elizabeth II’s bench division of the high court in England.

Diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2000, Ebsworth fought for two years before passing away surrounded by friends.

Women Leading Mesothelioma Innovation: A Promising Path Forward

Mesothelioma is a rare and dangerous cancer, but thanks to the tireless work of women in the community, patient outcomes are steadily improving. Cutting-edge treatment methods combined with new techniques for early detection and diagnosis are improving the prognosis for women with mesothelioma.

As our knowledge of mesothelioma deepens, it’s clear that women in mesothelioma are doing vital work as leaders in the field. These doctors, survivors, and advocates are paving the way to a better and brighter future for all patients.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, our team can provide personalized medical, financial, and supportive care at every point along your journey. Call our Patient Advocates at (866) 608-8933 or get our Free Mesothelioma Guide to learn how we can help you.


Mesothelioma Hope is not affiliated with, endorsed, or sponsored by any of the mesothelioma doctors listed above. Any contact information listed is for informational purposes only. You have the right to contact these specialists directly.

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Laura WrightWritten by:

Lead Editor

Laura Wright is a journalist and content strategist with more than 15 years of professional experience. She attended college at the University of Florida, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2008. Her writing has been featured in The Gainesville Sun and other regional publications throughout Florida.

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