Roughly 1.6 million women world-wide are newly diagnosed with breast cancer every year; for 525,000 of these cases the illness is fatal. Early detection and treatment significantly increases women’s chance of survival, and quality of life for those on treatment.
The available prevention and early detection methods for breast cancer in Germany and many European and other countries are not optimal. The standard method used today in Germany is mammogram screening. However, this method is not fit or recommended for all women and routine mammograms are not often offered to women below 50, even though around 20% of breast cancer is detected in women under the age of 50. In addition (and for younger women this is the only method of screening), physicians regularly examine the breast as part of a routine female check-up (usually once or twice a year). There is usually no standardized or evaluated method for such breast examinations it’s provided at varying levels of time investment, experience and care.
discovering hands® – idea and benefits
discovering hands® addresses some of these shortcomings by training and deploying visually impaired women with their highly developed sensory skills to detect the early signs of breast cancer.
Selected visually impaired women are trained at vocational training centers for people with disabilities as “Medical Tactile Examiners” (MTEs) and deliver breast examinations at doctors’ practices or breast centers. During the 9-month training period, they learn how to use a standardized diagnostic method for examining the female breast. Additionally, all MTEs are trained in communication skills and breast-specific psychology, as well as administrative tasks typically carried out by a doctor’s assistant. MTEs are either directly employed by resident doctors or hospitals or breast centers, or they work for different practices on a freelance basis.
discovering hands® – benefits:
Standardized method: MTEs use a standardized examination method that has been developed specifically for the purpose of their work.
More time for prevention and early detection: Typically, a regular breast examination carried out by a gynecologist takes between 1 and 3 minutes. The MTE invests at least 30 minutes for each session, not only examining the breast, but also educating patients on how to cope with the risk of breast cancer. Patients feel that they are well taken care of and receive the best possible preventive examination in a pleasant environment.
As of today, ~20 blind women are part of the discovering hands® network in Germany, working in 17 gynecologist’s practices and hospitals across Germany. More than 10,000 examinations have been carried out to date.