Virtual reality for the palliative care of cancer

Stud Health Technol Inform. 1997;44:87-94.

Abstract

We have been developing a VR system to provide patients with emotional support and to encourage them to assume an active life against cancer, since patients with an active lifestyle survive longer than those with a passive lifestyle. A possible explanation for this latter fact is that psychological stimulation may also activate the endocrine system and the immune system. Both systems may be able to rapidly repair tissue damaged by cancer and change the characteristics of the cancer itself. Although microelectrical analysis and molecular and genetic analyses are rapidly solving the riddles of the relationship between the brain and thought, we think that our VR research for palliative medicine may also play an important role in this area with regard to the development of new tools for treatment and support. This notion is based on the hypothesis that the brain can reorganize itself to compensate for irrationality or inappropriateness through pharmacological adaptation and/or anatomical regeneration of synapses. Another reason why VR research in palliative medicine is useful is that VR techniques represent not only an enhanced human-machine interface, but also an enhanced human communication technology. VR technology may also be used to help patients accept their disease. The mental state of a patient in the terminal stage of cancer changes step by step from denial of cancer, hope for a new treatment for cancer, suspicion of medical treatment, uneasiness regarding their future life, irritation, depression, and acceptance or despair. We plan to develop a new type of counseling system in medical cyberspace to provide mental care. It can also be used for group therapy or humor therapy to reduce loneliness. In summary, we conclude that VR technology can be applied to palliative medicine (1) to support communication between the patient and others, (2) to provide psychological support to treat neurosis and help to stabilize the patient's mental state, and (3) to actually treat cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Computer Graphics*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Palliative Care / methods*