Virtual Environment Education Reduces Anxiety Prior to Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer

March 24, 2017

PHILADELPHIA -- March 24, 2017 -- A virtual environment education program can decrease anxiety and increase comprehension among patients undergoing radiation therapy for prostate cancer, according to a study published in the Journal of Radiation Oncology.

Radiation therapists and physicians know that education can reduce anxiety before radiation treatment but lack a standardised tool. In an effort to solve this problem, Matthew Marquess, Thomas Jefferson College of Health Professions, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and colleagues conducted a pilot study to see if a virtual environment education program could reduce some of the anxiety their patients face.

“So many aspects of cancer care can produce anxiety for our patients which can negatively impact their health and wellbeing,” said Marquess. “Our pilot study showed that by using a simulated environment to teach our patients about their upcoming radiation therapy treatments, we can significantly increase their understanding of the treatment and reduce their anxiety.”

To evaluate the program’s efficacy, 22 patients with prostate cancer completed a 16-question survey to assess their anxiety and comprehension. The survey measured patients’ anxiety levels associated with various aspects of care including being alone in the treatment room, treatment precision, claustrophobia, effects of daily x-rays, and pain.

Patients then received personalised education with Marquess and Shirley Johnston, Jefferson College of Health Professions. The team used Virtual Environment Radiotherapy (VERT) software, which is modelled after a “flight simulator” for radiation therapy including life-size visualisations and 3-dimensional views. After the education session, patients repeated the survey.

“Our pre- and post- survey results showed a significant decrease in anxiety and increase in comprehension,” said Robert Den, MD, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, and Thomas Jefferson University. “Even better, our patients’ and their families’ comments were unanimously positive with themes of improved confidence, relief and satisfaction.”

SOURCE: Thomas Jefferson University

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