Discovering Hands – The life-saving hands of blind women

© Discovering Hands

The award-winning organization Discovering Hands unleashes the power of visually impaired women to provide better breast cancer prevention services, promoting women’s health on a global scale.

Seeing a special talent in disability and thus saving lives – this is exactly what the initiative “Discovering Hands” has been doing successfully for several years. The social enterprise from Duisburg was founded in 2011 by gynecologist Dr. Frank Hoffmann and focuses on very special empowerment of visually impaired and blind women: The distinct sense of touch, which becomes life-saving in breast cancer screening.

Breast cancer is still one of the most common forms of cancer among women; almost 70,000 women are diagnosed with the disease in Germany every year. However, it is often not the tumor itself that is fatal, but the spread of the cancer cells in the body. If the tumor is discovered at an early stage, those affected can receive less stressful treatment and their chances of survival improve considerably. This is why prevention is so important in this field.

Complementing the existing services in a sensible way

At the same time, the existing services are not optimal: from the age of 30 to 50, there is only an annual breast examination by a gynaecologist, which often has to be carried out under great time pressure. Mammography screening is only provided from the age of 50.

Discovering Hands” is a useful addition to the existing range of services. The social enterprise trains blind and visually impaired women as Medical Tactile Examiners (MTU), who are able to sense even small abnormalities thanks to their highly developed sense of touch and can thus detect about three times more malignant changes in tissue than sighted doctors. In addition, the examinations usually take 30 to 60 minutes and are therefore much more extensive than the conventional palpation examination by doctors, which usually only takes a few minutes.

Many health insurance companies now cover preventive examinations

In the meantime, many statutory and all private health insurances in Germany cover the preventive examination of “Discovering Hands”. There is also an offshoot in Austria. However, the professional profile of the MTU has yet to be established here within the framework of an effectiveness study. Interested women over the age of 40 can participate in the study here and receive a free palpation examination in the course of it. By participating in the study, the participants can actively contribute to establishing a new professional profile and improved breast cancer screening in Austria.


In addition to screening, the social enterprise also relies on training in Germany and Austria. With instructions on tactile self-examination, the visually impaired and blind women impart their knowledge to the sighted women and show them how they can carry out the prevention independently at home at regular intervals.

A special talent that becomes a meaningful vocation

The examinations by MTU not only close a large prevention gap, but at the same time show the visually impaired and blind women a new, professional perspective. Their disability turns into a unique talent that leads to meaningful work and strengthens their role in society.

«Sometimes it is the simple thoughts that develop the greatest impact.» Dr. Frank Hoffmann, Founder of Discovering Hands

Finally, apart from the positive impact on the health system and the social empowerment of visually impaired and blind women, there is also huge financial potential behind prevention. This was recently confirmed in a study by Ashoka and McKinsey. According to the study, early detection of tumours would also result in lower treatment and follow-up costs. In Germany alone, up to 160 million euros could be saved annually if women were to take advantage of the “Discovering Hands” offer nationwide.

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Dr. Andreas Renner, Co-Founder GOOD: