KEY POINTS

  • >268,600 American women get diagnosed with breast cancer every year
  • Breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy suffer from psychological distress 
  • VR during chemotherapy can help alleviate anxiety and stress

About 268,600 American women get diagnosed with breast cancer every year and chemotherapy is one of the most commonly used treatment options. While it is very effective in killing cancer cells, it can be quite painful for cancer patients undergoing them. They might experience painful side effects including muscle aches, headaches, joint and stomach pains.

Apart from suffering from psychological distress from being diagnosed with the condition, breast cancer patients also have to undergo a lot of painful side effects from the therapies. They need interventions not only to endure the treatments and adhere to it but also to improve their general quality of life.

A group of Italian researchers has found that virtual reality could be an effective distraction tool for patients undergoing painful medical procedures.

They sought to assess the efficacy of interactive and immersive virtual reality (VR) in alleviating chemotherapy-related psychological distress among women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer treatment. The study included 94 patients who were divided into three groups. The first 30 women were given VR experience during chemotherapy and the second group of 30 women received music therapy (MT). Another group of 34 women belonged to the control group who didn’t receive either of them.

The findings suggested that both VR and MT were both effective in alleviating anxiety and mood states in breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. But, more specifically, the data suggested that VR was more effective than MT in combating depression, fatigue, and anxiety.

“Although modern cancer treatments have partially reduced the side effects on health and quality of life, these therapies are experienced with considerable suffering by women and these can sometimes develop conditioned responses to treatments,” Health Imaging quoted Andrea Chirico, a psycho-oncologist at the Sapienza University of Rome.

For starters, Chemotherapy uses powerful chemicals to destroy fast-growing cells in a cancer patient’s body. Several chemotherapy drugs are available, which are used independently or in certain combinations to treat a wide range of cancers. In some cases, chemotherapy is used after other cancer treatments including surgery and radiation therapy. Chemotherapy drugs have been proved useful in treating other conditions than cancer such as bone marrow diseases and immune system disorders.