In India, a team of blind and partially-sighted women with amplified sense of touch are conducting breast cancer screenings with incredible results. Right now, only 1% of women in the country undergo mammography due to the high cost and limited number of radiologists. From the BBC:
Dividing the chest into four zones with the tapes, she spends 30 to 40 minutes palpating every centimetre of the breast with varying pressure, before documenting her findings on her computer. Along with the patient's medical history, Gupta will later send her findings to a physician for a diagnosis of any abnormalities and advice on further assessment.
Gupta is a Delhi-based medical tactile examiner (MTE), a new and emerging profession for blind and visually impaired women in India and Europe. She is a humanities graduate, blind since birth, trained for nine months in tactile breast examinations, a specialised form of clinical breast examination. Gupta's blindness is not incidental to her role, but something that greatly aids her work.
Studies have proven that in the absence of visual information, the brains of blind people can develop heightened sensitivity in hearing, touch and other senses and cognitive functions. Frank Hoffmann, a Germany-based gynaecologist who developed the idea of MTE has found that during their extensive examinations, MTEs can catch lumps as small as 6-8mm. According to his unpublished research, that is less than the 10-20mm lumps that many physicians without a visual impairment can find during examinations.