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A woman in Colombia is trained by Discovering Hands as a medical tactile examiner. (Facebook/Discovering Hands)
A woman in Colombia is trained by Discovering Hands as a medical tactile examiner. (Facebook/Discovering Hands)

Hands on

Blind women trained to detect breast cancer are outperforming doctors

By WITW Staff on May 7, 2019

A pioneering new breast cancer detection program in Colombia is relying upon a small group of blind women to physically feel for cancerous lumps, a task that some doctors claim blind women excel at due to the heightened sensitivity of their fingertips.

At the Meléndez clinic in southern Cali, Colombia, Leidy Garcia, 27, has found a new life as a medical tactile examiner (MTE) — a career created especially for blind women trained to detect cancerous lumps such as those seen at the earliest stages of breast cancer. Eight years ago, Garcia suffered a cerebral thrombosis that blinded her in her left eye, while her right eye’s vision was left severely impaired. The sudden onset of debilitating visual disability, Garcia told The Guardian, was devastating. But since finding work as an MTE, Garcia has been able to examine more than 2,500 patients for breast cancer. According to research from MTE training organization Discovering Hands, visually impaired women are 30 percent more likely to accurately identify tissue alterations than doctors.

“This job gives me huge self-confidence. Now I feel free, independent and useful. I can contribute to the community,” Garcia said. “For people with disabilities, it’s so hard to find a job because of bias and boundaries inside companies, so this is a great opportunity based in our talent. It’s also a good way to change the mindset of society, which usually patronizes blind people, thinking we are not able to do many things.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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