Blind from birth, Isabelle follows a nine-month training course in Germany to become a tactile medical assistant and work on the early detection of breast cancer: “This is the first time that I have held this necklace in my hand, she told the magazine ‘We, the Europeans’ (replay). When you know that each ball represents the different sizes of tumors, it’s worrying, especially when you realize that it can reach the size of this large ball. There, it is really very small and, to find that in the breast, it will be necessary to be very precise. “
Like athletes, blind women will train their fingers for hours, first on a simple foam mat supposed to represent the epidermis. A trainer advises a trainee: “When you position your fingers for the first time, be careful that the band is well under the index fingers. And then you go with the guiding hand. We are going to make three circles of three different pressures. The last with the stronger pressure is already close to the chest. “ Young women will soon feel tiny balls that they will be the only ones to detect.
Tumors detected two and a half times smaller than those seen by doctors
This training costing 30,000 euros is fully funded by the German state and private scholarships. Entrusting breast cancer screening to blind women was a gamble that began fourteen years ago in the industrial area of the Ruhr. An initiative which is due to Doctor Franck Hoffmann who made a finding in his office in Duisburg: the few minutes he devotes to his patients are not sufficient. “The women who come to us for their annual consultation all have a breast palpation and when I do I find tumors, but I’m not sure if I find all the small ones.”, he said.
“I had no solution, until one day I was in the shower one morning. I thought this would be an ideal task for blind people who depend on their sense of touch”, remembers the creator of the Discovering Hands center. His intuition was confirmed: the blind detect what he, a doctor, is unable to see. “This is a tumor that we can find. It is 1.35 centimeters by a centimeter in size. Here, it is the size of a tumor that tactile medical assistants can detect. It measures six millimeters… “ These women thus detect tumors two and a half times smaller than those felt by specialized doctors.