Meta-Analysis of the Efficacy of Virtual Reality-Based Interventions in Cancer-Related Symptom Management

Integr Cancer Ther. 2019 Jan-Dec;18:1534735419871108. doi: 10.1177/1534735419871108.


Background. This meta-analysis summarizes the results from recent studies that examined the use of virtual reality (VR)-based interventions on health-related outcomes in patients with cancer, and quantitatively evaluates the efficacy of VR-based interventions. Findings of this meta-analysis can provide direction for future symptom management research. Methods. The search terms included a combination of "virtual reality" OR "virtual environment" OR "head-mounted display" with "oncology" OR "cancer." Three databases (Medline, PubMed, and CAJ Full-text Database), one search engine (Google Scholar), and the website of ResearchGate, covering the period from December 2013 to May 15, 2019, and including articles published in both English and Chinese, were searched. Data synthesis used the RevMan 5.3 to generate pooled estimates of effect size. Results. A total of 6 empirical studies met the eligibility criteria. VR-based interventions had statistically significant effects on reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, pain, and cognitive function, whereas statistically significant benefit was observed for fatigue (Z = 2.76, P = .006). Conclusion. Most recent studies have primarily examined VR-based interventions for symptom management in the acute stages of cancer care. However, the management of late and long-term side effects is central to cancer survivorship care. There is burgeoning empirical support for further research to evaluate the efficacy of VR-based interventions in cancer rehabilitation.

Keywords: cancer care; meta-analysis; virtual reality.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Fatigue / psychology
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Virtual Reality