A Virtual Reality (VR) experience may be useful in helping mesothelioma patients cope with their diagnosis. This out-of-body experience can help increase stress tolerance and patient empowerment.
Italian researchers are looking at VR interventions to improve cancer patients’ well-being. VR can be useful to support mesothelioma patients in coping with distressing situations.
One VR experience is with a resilient cancer patient who is facing similar difficulties. This can help train patients how to cope with cancer-related difficulties. If the patient endures a difficult situation in the VR simulation, they will be more likely to cope well in real life.
Scenarios endured through a VR experience can build a patient’s resilience. The study found that patients who used the VR experience were more likely to use practical coping strategies in real life.
Current VR Scenarios for Cancer Patients
There are two methods currently used by scholars and clinicians to reach this goal. The first is distraction and the second is exposure.
VR distraction is used to reduce patients’ distress during medical procedures and treatments. For example, a vacation simulation may relieve symptoms experienced by those in palliative care.
VR exposure is used to show cancer patients’ scenarios related to the care. For example, there is a VR scenario related to getting radiotherapy treatment. It allows the patient to ‘see’ what is about to happen. This can help to reduce stress and fear regarding treatments and the future.
One of the drawbacks of VR is that it puts the patient in a passive role during the simulation. In the scenario, the patient has only limited control over the situation due to software limits. This can exacerbate feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness in some patients.
Latest and Greatest VR Scenarios
VR therapies often focus on helping patients in recovering control over their life by empowering them. Empowerment can help with disease management and improve health status. It impacts medication adherence. And it helps patients to become active participants in their treatment.
Level 1 VR scenarios are vicarious experiences and exposures. This level supports the cancer narrative and helps the patient in coping with difficult treatments. The patient will have a third-person perspective on another cancer patient undergoing a challenge. In sum, they have a vicarious experience. Patients will gain a correct understanding of the challenges they may face. It is hopeful that this will decrease their distress, and they will not feel overwhelmed in facing the scenario.
Level 2 VR scenarios are external perspectives and out-of-body-experiences. These use storytelling to guide the patient through a more personal experience. The patient will see themselves during the training with an external perspective. This helps the patient to participate in the situation with more emotional involvement. The patient undergoing the difficulties in the VR is actually them. But it still uses an external perspective.
Level 3 VR scenarios are body swapping. This is the last level and it is the most emotionally engaging. The patient will switch body and perspective. They will experience the cancer difficulties from a first-person perspective. This combines both audio and visual simulations. Often this simulation is used to experience another person’s scenario. This helps to build a deep connection and empathy with the cancer patient.
VR scenarios are an innovative approach to psycho-oncology. They actively work to empower patients and encourage a mind-body relationship. It is unique because it aims at preventing psychological problems before they happen. This training promotes patient-centered medicine. And it makes patients active characters in their own health management.
Sansoni, Maria, Giovanni Scarzello, Silvia Serino, Elena Groff, and Giuseppe Riva. “Mitigating Negative Emotions through Virtual Reality and Embodiment.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 16 (2022). https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2022.916227.