Research has shown that the quality of life of patients facing cancer is severely impaired, even more so when they have to undergo difficult treatments such as chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation. It is therefore essential to properly support these patients, especially to prevent the onset of significant levels of emotional distress, even depression and severe anxiety.
To best help these patients, there are non-pharmacological interventions that have been shown to have a positive impact on cancer adaptation. Programs combining virtual reality and hypnosis (VRH) are in full expansion. These programs distract patients from acute pain and anxiety by allowing them to take an imaginary journey through pleasant sights and sounds. Since these programs are still new, they need to be improved.
To that end, researchers recommend studying the best ways to use it with frail patients, and programming them to provide more individualized care. In response to these recommendations, and to best support our patients, a new RVH program has been developed by clinicians, researchers, digital artists and patient partners. It aims to facilitate the patient’s absorption into a safe and benevolent imaginary world, in which they will be invited to have an experience that distracts them from their negative emotions and physical discomforts (e.g., pain, nausea). During this experience, the patient will be accompanied by a caregiver through an avatar, to provide individualized care.
Through this research project, we will implement two activities that will meet two complementary objectives. On the one hand, we will evaluate the user experience through satisfaction questionnaires and research interviews with partner patients in remission from cancer who will test our program. This study will allow us to collect their opinions and recommendations, which will allow us to improve our program, so that it can better correspond to the reality of cancer patients.
In addition, we will evaluate the effects of the RVH program in patients with multiple myeloma, one of the most aggressive hematological cancers with the most side effects from treatment. We will conduct a study at the time of stem cell transplantation that will compare the effects of our new HVR program to those of standard psychological support, which is usually offered to these patients. We will evaluate whether our program improves patients’ quality of life and thereby reduces emotional distress.
If our results show good effects, we will evaluate our program with other oncology patients. We will then propose training to health professionals to extend this project to different cancer centers in Quebec and other French-speaking centres, in order to improve the quality of life of our patients.