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Visually impaired women as Medical Tactile Examiners help in early detection of Cancer lumps

Breast Cancer is rising rapidly in our country. In a city like Delhi 1 in 22 women is expected to develop Breast cancer in their lifetime and out of every two who suffer, one dies due to it. The best way to fight breast cancer is to catch it at an early stage. For the first time in India, Fortis Flt. Lt. Rajan Dhall Hospital (FHVK) in association with National Association of Blind India (Centre for Blind Women) have launched “Discovering hands®”- a unique breast screening technique for early detection of Breast cancer applicable to women across all ages.

Discovering hands® is a unique initiative from Germany that trains visually impaired women to become Medical Tactile Examiners (MTEs), using their highly developed tactile sense to identify the minutest abnormalities in the breasts. In a nine-month long training program supported by Bayer Crop Science, blind and visually impaired women are trained to screen patients of all age groups and also detect breast cancer. These MTEs have helped to screen more than 100,000 women in Germany, Austria and Columbia in this innovative programme started by Dr. Frank Hoffmann in Germany.

According to Dr. Mandeep S Malhotra, Head, Department of Surgical Oncology at FHVK- “Breast cancer in our country is getting younger, a very recent study has suggested peak incidence in Delhi between 40 to 50 years. Also, most of the women present to us in Stage III, only 10 % of my patients reach me in Stage I. We can save almost 90% of our patients from this dreaded disease if we catch it at an early stage. Screening Mammograhy is mainly applicable after the age of 40, moreover about 30% of Indian women have dense breasts which are not idle for mammogram. We are putting forward an indigenous Breast Cancer Screening Methodology, inspired from Germany, using the superior sense of touch of visually impaired women (MTE) and integrating with standard methodology of sonomammography and Self Breast Examination (SBE) under direct supervision of my team of doctors, and apply it to women across all ages (20 year to 80year or more). In this way, we hope to catch Breast Cancer early, nail it completely, preserve the Feminity of a woman and save precious lives.”

(From L to R): Dr. Urvashi Jha, Director Obstetrics And Gynaecology at Fortis Flt. Lt. Rajan Dhall Hospital; Ms. Shalini Khanna, Director of National Association for the Blind’s Centre for Blind Women; Dr. Mandeep S Malhotra, Head, Department of Surgical Oncology Fortis Flt. Lt. Rajan Dhall Hospital (FHVK) and  MTE (Medical Tactile Examiner) Hasiba

Ms. Shalini Khanna, Director of National Association for the Blind’s Centre for Blind Women in Delhi said- “The road to reach pilot project was a roller-coaster ride. With support from Bayer Crop Science and Discovering Hands, Germany when we started the project we were sure that these girls will be perfect to develop the heightened skill for screen so deeply and with accuracy as MTEs and they lived up to our expectations. I am happy to see them working in their own OPD.”

MTE Hasiba and Sakshi said, “What we do here gives us a purpose. Our technique is new and innovative. When we were given a chance to work at our own OPD in Fortis Hospital Vasant Kunj we felt like we had been given a chance to prove ourselves and showcase our talents.”

MTE Examination is verified by our Breast Team and further evaluation by Ultrasound and /or Mammography is suggested according to the findings. Ms. Mangla Dembi, Facility Director, FHVK said- “The idea is unique and interesting and through our expertise of doctors we would like to support them to deploy power in these special girls. Also, my vision is to support them in their employment as well along with encouraging young women to come forward for the preventive breast examination.”

All lumps or thickenings in the breast need medical attention to determine whether they are one of many benign lumps that can occur in the breast or are truly a cancer. Age, family history, genetics, dense breasts and race are the major risk factors for breast cancer. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, an inactive lifestyle and lack of exercise might also contribute to breast cancer.  Early Symptoms of breast cancer may include pain in breast/breasts, discharge, remarkable change in shape and size, rash, flaky or crusty nipple and dimpling of the skin.






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