A Moment of Science

Virtual Reality and Chemotherapy

Some cancer patients are discovering that virtual reality isn't just for cyber geeks. Learn how virtual realities are helping cancer patients through chemo.

Some cancer patients are discovering that virtual reality isn’t just for cyber geeks.

Virtual reality is helping patients cope with chemotherapy.  First of all, virtual reality isn’t simply video games, but it’s defined as a way for humans to become immersed in a computer-generated environment in a naturalistic fashion. The distraction of a virtual world significantly reduces the adverse effects of chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer patients.

Some patients say that it’s not just the chemotherapy itself that makes them ill, but it’s other cancer patients. Sharing a room with other people undergoing the same treatment can make it that much more difficult for some people to relax. With the help of virtual reality, they report less fatigue, as well as fewer distress symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting. Currently, virtual reality is being tested for its effectiveness in easing the experience of chemo for patients with other cancers as well.

The virtual reality programs being provided to cancer patients are chosen carefully, so that they’re interactive enough to help distract patients, but without overstimulating them. Scenarios used engage the participant in touring an art gallery, going deep-sea diving, or solving a mystery.

Virtual realities are also being used in a variety of other medical applications, from surgical training to the treatment of body image disorders.

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