Reichenbach (DPA) – Christine Kanetzaki is moving very carefully. She spends about an hour with her patient, feeling every centimeter of her breast with her fingers. He also felt lymph nodes in the neck, collarbone and armpits.
And he gets an overview of the temperature, shape and strength of the tissue. “It’s like an inspection,” Kanetzaki said. The blind woman has been working as a medical tactical examiner (MTU) for almost ten years. She offers a detailed palpation examination of the breast, the so-called tactilography, in gynecological practice.
He has recently been assigned to a care center at Paracelsus Clinic in Reichenbach, Saxony. He also worked with practitioners in other cities in the region. “You can’t study our sense of touch. As blind people, we depend on it every day,” he says. Being able to read Braille, which involves feeling small dots with your fingers, is a good prerequisite for this. It is organized by Discovering Hands Services GmbH, founded in 2011 in Mulheim an der Ruhr (North Rhine-Westphalia). The social enterprise has already trained about 60 blind or visually impaired medical tactile examiners (MTUs), says Frank Hoffman, founder and concept generator.
Many knots found in gynecological practice are already one to two centimeters in size, explained by gynecologists and obstetricians. “I was dissatisfied. In our daily practice, we have very little time for breast augmentation.” According to their own research, trained blind women can already detect size changes of 0.6 cm. Christine Kanetzaki said it was often suspected that blind people and their sense of touch were of no use in preventing cancer. “Meanwhile, the doctors trust me. When I notice minor changes, they take further action.”
Tactylography is recommended once a year, says Kanetzaki, who has long been Saxony’s only MTU. “A lot of women come to me regularly. Ex-breast cancer patients also use this type of more screening. And there are normal tissue changes in the breast that can be frightening, but which we can differentiate well with the feeling of our touch.” Frank Hoffman made it clear that MTU should be understood as a medical assistant. “The findings have been handed over to doctors. They evaluate them, make a final diagnosis and determine how to proceed.”
Suzanne Weig-Remers from the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg evaluates the range of services provided by tactilography as a complement to early cancer detection and compares it to a gynecologist’s sensitive examination. At the same time, she lowered expectations: “Unfortunately, in terms of serial testing, there is no scientific evidence that this could reduce the mortality rate for breast cancer patients.” This applies to tactical examination as well as sensitive examination by gynecologists.
“The cancer must have reached a certain size before it could be felt.” For this reason, tactilography is only recommended as an additional service for women aged 50 to 69 years. “A mammography, a special X-ray of the breast, cannot replace it,” explains Weig-Remarks, head of the Cancer Information Service. Only it has been shown to reduce mortality from breast cancer.
Blind or visually impaired women who are organized through Discovering Hands go through ten months of qualification in medical care, Hoffman explains. The training is supported by rehabilitation providers, foundations and scholarships. In addition to Vogtland, Saxony has medical-touch examiners in Dresden, Leipzig and Chemnitz. According to Hoffman, 31 statutory and all private health insurance companies now bear the cost of testing.
When it comes to breast cancer prevention, Susan Weig-Reimers says: The German Cancer Research Center recommends regular breast cancer detection. “But no investigation is 100% reliable. All carry the risk of false alarms.” Subsequent invasive tests such as biopsies carry additional risks. “These can lead to hemorrhage or infection. And not every tumor found will develop aggressively – someone is talking about an additional diagnosis. However, not all patients are then given cancer therapy, in which it is not always clear if it was necessary.” Therefore, what initial identification tests a woman uses remains a personal decision
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