Any serious illness can impact mental health. For patients, caregivers, and their loved ones, going through cancer can be a devastating experience. Chemotherapy is one of the most traumatic components of cancer treatment. Some patients may lose the ability to be independent. Treatments can also cause depression and anxiety. A side effect of chemotherapy known as chemo brain can cause fatigue, depression, mental fog, and other forms of cognitive impairment. Cancer affects in the physical health, but wide range of feelings may feel as if your life is out of control. Treatments can be debilitating for many, even with the best of relaxation strategies and anti-nausea medicines.
Could VR support coping during treatments?
Virtual reality has already proven capable of doing much good in the healthcare industry, helping patients cope with autism, paranoia, labor pains, PTSD, and many other conditions and ailments.
Managing mental health needs is a crucial part of the treatment process, and may even impact prognosis. And part of coping with cancer is about looking after your emotions and mental health.
What if it was possible to actually “escape” to another place during the treatments? Could virtual reality serve as a tool to help patients through chemotherapy? VR could actually be designed to help chemo patients temporarily escape their hospital beds. Similar to relaxation techniques and meditation practices, it literally could transform the patient to another time and place. Improving the quality of life of the patients.
Research shows 50 percent reduction in anxiety
OnComfort has created VR application that leverages virtual reality technology to help train patients in stress management, give them easy-to-understand information, and help them feel more in control, calm, and comfortable.
According to OnComfort’s website, their apps have been tested by 20 doctors on more than 1,500 patients in the U.S. and Europe. Tests have so far produced positive results — breast cancer patients who used OnComfort at least 15 minutes before their scheduled procedures saw a 50 percent reduction in anxiety, an 80 percent reduction in the use of pain medication, and a 40 percent decrease in overall pain. Results are really promising and now is the time to get more clinical evidence and data to support how VR can be used to administer effective treatment both in the clinic (expanded use) and remotely.
Future is in VR
Last year, an estimated 1.6 million people in the U.S. were diagnosed with a form of cancer, and if companies like OnComfort can help ease the stress and pain of even a fraction of those people, the technology is worth pursuing.
Virtual Reality has already made the impossible, possible. Next step is to encourage close collaboration of traditional cancer research organisations with virtual reality content creators to take VR beyond pain management and distraction techniques and into a completely new realm.