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July 30th, 2009
04:27 PM ET

Blind women help detect breast cancer

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/HEALTH/07/29/german.blind.cancer/art.german.cancer.jpg caption="The blind assistants use tape strips with braille coordinates to accurately locate cancerous lumps. "]

Nick Wade and Joana Krause-Palfner
For CNN

Blind women are being trained to use their sensitive touch to help detect breast cancer earlier and more precisely than doctors.

The program, called "Discovering Hands," is the brainchild of German gynecologist Dr. Frank Hoffmann.

Two years ago, he created Braille strips as a system of orientation, allowing the blind to carry out breast examinations.

Using these strips blind women are trained to become Medical Tactile Examiners (MTUs) because they are more able to detect smaller lumps than sighted doctors.

Hoffman argues that because of their disability, the blind can possess a more acutely developed sense of touch, which has proved to be a valuable asset in breast examinations.

Once the strips are placed along specific areas of the breast, they are then used to report a precise location to the doctor as the MTU reads their Braille coordinates.

"We are turning a disability into a gift," Dr. Hoffmann told CNN.

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Filed under: Beyond 360 • T1
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Isabel, Brazil

    It's amazing! is very good that the blind can help!

    It's great to read good news in the midst of so many problems. 🙂

    July 30, 2009 at 7:37 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    Would ultrasound or mammography not pick up these tumors on a regular exam by them since they don't have the specific coordinates? Getting a mammogram or ultrasound doesn't take that long – 30 minutes for this new exam sounds like a very long time to me for an exam that is uncomfortable to say the least.

    July 30, 2009 at 7:09 pm |