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.
Keywords: Anxiety; Breast cancer; Patient education; Radiation therapy; VERT.