Virtual Reality Makes Chemotherapy More Bearable

Immersing breast cancer patients in 'alternate' experience eases side effects

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WEDNESDAY, Feb. 11, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Virtual realty seems to help breast cancer patients cope with chemotherapy, claims a study by researchers at Duke University School of Nursing and Case Western Reserve Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The study of 20 breast cancer patients found that using virtual reality -- for example, going deep-sea diving or touring an art gallery -- while they had chemotherapy helped ease their fatigue and discomfort.

The researchers say a computer-generated visual and aural environment of virtual reality provides an excellent distraction for these patients. Because it's interactive, it engages several senses simultaneously and immerses the patient in a new world. That helps them block out the often stressful chemotherapy treatment.

"I've been a nurse for more than 20 years, and I've noticed if patients can focus on something other than their treatment, they have less nausea and vomiting and they tolerate the treatments better," study author Susan Schneider, director of the oncology program at Duke University School of Nursing, says in a prepared statement.

"For some, that distraction intervention might be knitting or reading a book, but our study examined the effectiveness of virtual reality, specifically in breast cancer patients," Schneider says.

The study appeared in a recent issue of Oncology Nursing Forum.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about coping with chemotherapy.

SOURCE: Duke University, news release, February 2004

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