Plight of cancer-gene sisters

Three sisters whose lives have been affected by breast cancer as a result of a genetic mutation common in Ashkenazi women are campaigning to raise awareness of the gene.

Glasgow-based Sue Faber, 44, and her sisters Elaine Mishkin, 43, and Karen Rosen, 37 — whose mother Lorna Klineberg died from breast cancer aged just 47 in 1986 — all chose to undergo mastectomies and reconstructive surgery in 2006. 

Mrs Faber and Mrs Mishkin, who lives in Mexico, tested positive for  the BRCA1 mutation, meaning that they had an 85 per cent chance of developing the cancer. Mrs Rosen, based in the US, was diagnosed with stage-two breast cancer.


Three sisters, one goal: Elaine, Karen and Sue will hike in Scotland

Currently clear of the disease, the sisters, who all have children, are planning to hike 95 miles up the West Highland Way in Scotland as part of their “A Step Ahead” campaign. Mother-of-two Mrs Faber, a member of Newton Mearns Synagogue, said: “Our message to other women is that you must be even more breast-aware. People are frightened to be tested for the gene and this worries me. You can go through it and be fit and healthy at the end of it.

“If you have a history of breast or ovarian cancer in your family, you have the options of just waiting for it to happen. Be ‘a step ahead’.”

One in under 50 Ashkenazi Jews carries the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, compared to what is estimated at about one in 400 in the general population. “It has been a very emotional time, made even more difficult by the fact we live so far away from each other,”
added Mrs Faber, a training manager.

Growing up, the sisters were actively involved in youth organisation FZY. They went on the machon year course to Israel, where Mrs Mishkin met her Mexican husband and they moved to Mexico City.

Mrs Faber made aliyah in 1982, but the next year was released early from the army and returned to Glasgow to help her mother, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Karen and Elaine were both teenagers and living in Glasgow at the time. In the mid-1990s, Karen moved to Israel, where she met her future husband. “We feel very strongly about raising awareness of this gene,” said Mrs Faber, who last year had her ovaries removed as an extra precaution. Now her sisters plan to do the same.

The trio are raising money for Cancer Research UK, via justgiving.com/astepahead, to fund a study into the link between the immune system and breast cancer.

The sisters begin their ascent on August 26 from Milngavie. They expect to arrive in Fort William on August 31.

    Last updated: 3:53pm, June 23 2008