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Effectiveness of virtual reality interventions for breast cancer patients in managing symptoms and rehabilitation: Research

The most frequent cancer in women worldwide is breast cancer (BC), with nearly 2.3 million women diagnosed in 2020, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Oncological treatment for breast cancer involves selecting the best intervention based on various prognostic and predictive variables. The most frequent side effect of BC diagnosis and therapy is psychological stress, a common sign of anxiety and depression. On #breastcancerawareness month, we will discuss the findings of ongoing research studies demonstrating that virtual reality interventions can help manage symptoms and provide rehabilitation for patients with breast cancer.

Virtual reality and cancer treatments 

VR has gained significant traction recently as a rehabilitation training method for treating symptoms like pain relief, exhaustion, anxiety, depression, and cognitive dysfunction in many patients. It has been applied to physical rehabilitation, including stroke, Parkinson’s, rectal cancer, and prostate cancer patients. As breast cancer patients experience similar physical and mental difficulties, VR could be beneficial to them.  

Virtual reality systems can be divided into two categories; i) immersive and ii) non-immersive.  

Can virtual reality interventions be beneficial? 

Cancer treatment relies heavily on patient psychology and clinical therapy. According to earlier research, people can manage their symptoms if they think they can. Chemotherapy is one of the most frequent treatments available for breast cancer patients worldwide. Most cancer patients have reported common symptoms like depression, fatigue, and pain, among many others, once exposed to chemo. Imagery therapy is a well-known method for improving patients’ beliefs and elevating their self-esteem and confidence. Their attitudes and emotions significantly improve as a result, and their immune systems improve clinically.

What is virtual reality intervention? 

Imagery therapy is a complementary psychological intervention combined with traditional treatment. For cancer patients undergoing this type of therapy, a virtual world is created to help them deal with their illness and improve their quality of life. Using a professional, laboratory-tested technique called virtual reality (VR), doctors and psychiatrists can help patients overcome significant depression-related therapy hurdles. Health professionals can now assist cancer patients this way thanks to the development and testing of numerous VR settings and video games.

Meta-analysis of VR interventions’ efficacy in managing symptoms and rehabilitation for BC patients 

Virtual reality (VR) is a viable tool to help cancer patients track neurophysiological changes and medical feedback during therapies. Some clinical studies were undertaken throughout these years where researchers used VR intervention in breast cancer patients as a tool in cancer rehabilitation to reduce patients’ psychological disorders, dysfunction, and pain. Below is the summary of the notable clinical studies on breast cancer patients discussing the included studies’ aim, intervention, measures, and results. 

Final thoughts 

The medical world has recently undergone a significant transformation thanks to rehabilitative technology developments. There is now a wide range of equipment that is simple to use and has many settings and features. Utilizing contemporary technology in the medical arena contributes to new knowledge and has several benefits. It is safe to conclude that virtual reality as a complementary psychological intervention combined with conventional treatment should be critically taken into account. However, further clinical studies must be conducted to evaluate whether it will be the ultimate solution in the coming days. 

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