Blind women save lives by detecting breast cancer

Thanks to their sense of touch it is possible to identify nodules and tumors

 Blind women save lives by detecting breast cancer 

Leer en Español: Mujeres invidentes salvan vidas detectando cáncer de mama


Several studies have shown that when one of the senses is missed, others become more acute. Under this hypothesis, professors from the University of Santiago de Cali, Colombia, created a project that aimed to train a group of blind women to identify tumors which can led to detect breast cancer in early stages.


‘Manos que salvan vidas’ -which in English means 'Hands to save lives'- is the project´s name that trained blind women under a method used by German doctor Frank Hoffmann. For a decade, the doctor has been confirming the ability of blind people to detect nodules, which in most cases, are the first manifestation of the disease. In Germany, the corporation 'Discovery Hands' empowers and employs people with visual deficiency, to detect tumors thanks to their sense ability. In Colombia, the project took place due to the collaboration of 'Discovery Hands' and the Development Bank of Latin America.


According to explanations by doctor and teacher Luis Alberto Olave, this medical exam can be much more arduous and accurate than conventional tests. Usually, a routine checkup for early detection breast cancer does not take more than 6 minutes, however, in this case it may exceed half an hour.


The tactile examiner rigorously palpates each centimeter of the breast, clavicles, and armpits with a braille-type tape that helps to form a breast map and mark the possible findings. Once the exam is finished, a report is delivered to a doctor who determines if another kind of tests should be performed.


"The idea with these women is not to detect cancer because cancer is detected by biopsy, but they have a very high sensitivity for detecting nodules and that is corroborated by a clinical study that we did, where we put approximately 300 patients examined by them and then corroborated with ultrasounds if the findings were real or not", explains Olave, indicating that blind women received training for seven months, before putting their knowledge into practice.


This project not only trains women with vision deficiency, but it also takes advantage of their special faculties and becomes an example of labor integration in the country. These aspects led the 'Hands that save lives' project to win one of the Awards of the Continuing Education Network of Latin America and Europe in the category 'Social Responsibility in Continuing Education'.


The first stage of the project trained and certified seven blind women, one of them from Mexico, who traveled to Cali to receive the training. These people were formed in a complete way by German instructors, who taught them medical terminology, anatomy and aspects of breast disease. After receiving the theory, they carried out a practice for three months at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in Cali and other health centers of the city.


Due to excellent results obtained from both the educational program and the tactile examiners, a second group will begin training during the first three months of 2018. It is also expected that this initiative would be adopted by other cities in the country, to continue fostering the labor integration in the population with physical impediments.


LatinAmerican Post | Krishna Jaramillo


Copy edited by Marcela Peñaloza

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