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Blind women become breast cancer examiners

NewsBlind women become breast cancer examiners

The examiners with the help of their fingers are able to diagnose tumours of 6-8 mm size.



Providing a new career avenue for visually impaired women, a Gurugram hospital has adopted a programme to utilise their highly developed sensory skills for timely detection of breast cancer. The CK Birla Hospital for Women and NAB India Centre for Blind Women are using the haptic communication abilities of blind women to train them to manually perform breast cancer examinations.

Started a decade ago by Dr Frank Hoffmann, the Discovering Hands concept and Tactile Breast Examination (TBE) use the highly developed sensory skills of visually impaired women for manual breast screening.

Sakshi Dalmia, one of the 14 tactile breast examiners, said: “I am not blind since birth. I was all set to become a Chartered Account, but a few years ago, I got Retina Pigmentosa which cost me my eyes. I lost all hopes and had to quit education and sit at home. I was very frustrated, so I made up my mind to do something with my life and came here to get enrolled into vocational training. I gave an assessment for four-five days and got cleared for TBE. During these five days, the Medical Tactile Examiners (MTE) taught us medical vocabulary and practical things like putting tapes, doing palpation etc. They also checked our tactile sense, communication skills, mobility, ability to operate computers, grasp of Braille and memory retention.”

Dr Frank Hoffmann, a gynaecologist from Germany, had developed TBE that uses a standard system based on a patented orientation stripes and high sensory touch of visually impaired women. His social enterprise, “Discovering Hands”, trains these women over nine months to conduct safe, repeatable and accurate clinical breast examinations without any radiation or side effects. During the examination lasting 30-40 minutes, trained examiners can detect abnormalities which are 50% smaller (6-8 mm).” He added, “It is interesting to note that while women doing non-structured self-examination of their breast can detect when their tumour has grown to the size of 2-3 cm, clinical examination can detect 1-2 cm sized tumour.”

Commenting on patients’ responding to the new concept, Dr Mandeep Malhotra, Director, Surgical Oncology and The Breast Centre, CK Birla Hospital for Women, said: “As the examiners doing TBE are blind, women feel safe as they don’t have to worry about getting naked in front of a doctor, which in fact has always remained an issue. Even I as a doctor find myself uncomfortable when I have to do such an examination.”

Shalini Khanna, Secretary and Director of NAB, : “I think this move will empower blind women to be independent with a new vocation of a kind.”

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