So who does it target?
In theory, everyone. In the UK and Germany, mammograms are offered to women between the ages of 50 and 70. But that leaves out the high-risk 40-50 year-olds, for whom breast cancer is still the leading cause of death, despite early detection being their greatest hope in fighting it. Incidents of breast cancer rise considerably after the age of 35.
In Germany, where Hoffmann lives and works, as in the UK, any woman below the age of 50 seeking a mammogram without the referral of a doctor would ordinarily have to pay for the costly service out of their own pocket. Since Discovering Hands was co-opted by key medical insurance providers however, more than eight million women can now access MTEs without any extra cost. It has reached the point that Hoffman is worried about having enough trained individuals to cater to present demand.
Understandably, Discovering Hands has also attracted its fair share of scepticism. Hoffmann reminds those in the medical community who are distrustful of his idea that MTEs are always working in tandem with trained doctors. “They lend their well-trained hands to the medical professional, allowing them to make a more accurate diagnosis,” he insists. Tests are being carried out all the time to monitor, evaluate, and improve the service, including a lengthy assessment launched in 2015, the results of which are due to be published later this month; while research carried out as early as 2008 showed that blind women who had been trained according to Hoffmann’s system are able to detect lumps up to 50% smaller than those traceable by traditional methods.
A former gynaecologist, Hoffmann is also conscious of the problems caused to women’s health through a lack of political will to redress limited resources. He became frustrated by the speed with which breast cancer screenings were conducted, believing that five minutes was too short a timeframe for reaching any meaningful conclusions. He also realised that in order to circumnavigate the federal system, he would have to ensure that Discovering Hands was run privately. As a social enterprise, the business classification de jure and in this case an accurate summation, it enjoys full independence and the possibility of expanding elsewhere.