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Patient education using virtual reality increases knowledge and positive experience for breast cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy

Abstract

Purpose

Improved access to technology in the radiation therapy (RT) workforce education has resulted in opportunities for innovative patient education methods. This study investigated the impact of a newly developed education tool using the Virtual Environment for Radiotherapy Training (VERT) system on patients’ RT knowledge and anxiety.

Method

Breast cancer patients were recruited into a control group (CG) (n = 18) who underwent the standard pre-RT education package at a targeted cancer therapy centre, followed by a VERT group (VG) (n = 19). VG patients attended a VERT-based education session detailing RT immobilisation, planning and treatment. All patients completed questionnaires at four time points throughout their treatment, with survey sub-sections on RT knowledge, experience and anxiety.

Results

For both groups, anxiety levels were highest at time point 1(T1 after initial radiation oncologist consultation) (CG, 41.2; VG, 43.1), with a gradual decrease observed thereafter at time points before simulation, at the beginning of treatment and at the end of treatment (p > 0.05). The VG’s RT knowledge scores were statistically significantly higher than those of the CG scores at all time points following VERT education (p < 0.05).

Conclusion

This study reports the high value of VERT breast cancer-targeted education programs in improving RT knowledge and perhaps decreasing patient anxiety. Continued efforts are required to improve patients’ accessibility to VERT in Australia, and to better understand the effect of VERT’s unique educational features on patients’ emotional and physical needs throughout their RT.

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Acknowledgements

We also extend our gratitude to all the patients who gave up their time to participate in the study.

Funding

Study participants’ travel reimbursement was funded by The University of Sydney’s postgraduate research support scheme. The primary author is the holder of a University of Sydney research scholarship, “Danielle Milinkovic Memorial Radiation Therapy Research Scholarship”. The authors wish to thank Rachael Beldham-Collins for her assistance in the co-ordination of the project.

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Correspondence to Yobelli A. Jimenez.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Jimenez, Y.A., Cumming, S., Wang, W. et al. Patient education using virtual reality increases knowledge and positive experience for breast cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy. Support Care Cancer 26, 2879–2888 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-018-4114-4

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Keywords

  • VERT
  • Radiation therapy
  • Patient education
  • Breast cancer
  • Anxiety