How Technology is Changing How Kids with Cancer Experience Chemotherapy

Patricia Howard | September 26th, 2017
Methodist Children’s Hospital-San Antonio, Facebook

It’s safe to say that nobody enjoys being poked with needs. Whether or not you’re afraid of them, having a vein tapped is far from a comfortable experience. And for patients with cancer, there’s no shortage of needles in store. For some children fighting cancer, the needles involved in administering their chemotherapy treatments can be scary and painful. That’s why one company is pioneering a new type of therapy that will help kids cope with – and even escape – these daunting treatments.

It’s called KindVR, and it’s pretty awesome. Pediatric Psychologist Jenny Hoag has seen firsthand how virtual reality can make a huge difference in how her pint-sized patients deal with their chemotherapy. In a recent interview, she shared how one of her patient’s crippling anxiety made his treatments a miserable experience. “I had worked with him since the beginning of his treatment, and he really, really struggled, “Jenny said. “He would get here and immediately feel nauseous and anxious and would almost always vomit, sometimes more than once, before we even did anything.”

Even though he had fought Jenny when she had introduced different coping mechanisms during his chemotherapy sessions, she found that his curiosity surrounding virtual reality was a perfect tool that would help him to conquer his anxiety and get through his chemotherapy treatments more calmly and comfortably. “Once the headset was on, he was already smiling, which I almost never saw,” Jenny shared. The ability of VR to remove someone from their current surroundings and completely immerse them in a new experience is a powerful tool that can help children who are facing one of the most terrifying diseases imaginable escape from that sober reality into one that is a little less stressful. For example, one program transports the children to the bottom of the ocean where they can explore the waters as they slowly drift by colorful fish and spectacular coral reefs.

Though VR therapy has yet to undergo any formal testing, the initial results are promising. Once again, Virtual Reality is making headlines by moving beyond the gaming box to find new and innovative applications that will improve the lives of thousands of people. It’s inspiring to see such incredible technology being applied to an area that, while not profitable in the traditional sense of the word, will hopefully be a valuable tool in the fight against childhood cancer.

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