"KFAR SABA, Israel — Ever since she tested positive for a defective gene that causes breast cancer, Tamar Modiano has harbored a mother’s fear: that she had passed it on to her two daughters. Ms. Modiano had her breasts removed at 47 to prevent the disease and said that the day she found out her older daughter tested negative was one of the happiest of her life.
Now she wants her younger daughter, Hadas, 24, to be tested so she can start a family early if she is positive and then have a double mastectomy too. Ms. Modiano’s elder daughter, Suzi Gattegno, 29, disagrees.
“You’re keeping her from living her life,” Ms. Gattegno told her mother. “You want to marry her off early.”
Israel has one of the highest rates of breast cancer in the world. Mortality is very low, in part because of intense screening.
“She doesn’t even have a boyfriend,” the daughter said. “You need to stop pressuring her.”
“I want to protect her!” Ms. Modiano replied.
Such family debates are playing out across Israel these days. The country has one of the highest rates of breast cancer in the world, according to a World Health Organization report. And some leading scientists here are advocating what may be the first national screening campaign to test women for cancer-causing genetic mutations common among Jews — tests that are already forcing young women to make agonizing choices about what they want to know, when they want to know it and what to do with the information.