Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

LaDisa, John F.

Second Advisor

Bergom, Carmen R.

Third Advisor

Shukla, Monica E.


Radiation therapy (RT) is commonly used in the treatment of breast cancer. According to the literature, RT is an unknown to many patients and can be a source of anxiety and fear. Towards that end, a virtual reality (VR) education program was developed that leverages head-mounted display technology to virtually place a patient in immersive representations of a CT simulation suite, dosimetry room, and treatment room that mimic the actual clinical spaces associated with RT. A virtual model of a radiation oncologist “meets” the patient in each environment and provides verbal narration. In the treatment environment, the patient is able to virtually experience the sights and sounds of RT as their perspective changes to that of someone lying on the treatment table. In the current study, 24 breast cancer patients receiving adjuvant RT completed a randomized controlled trial that compared the efficacy of a standard educational video to the VR education intervention by assessing patient anxiety levels, information needs, stress, preparedness, and satisfaction through self-report questionnaires administered pre-intervention (T1), post-intervention (T2) and after the first RT session (T3). The results show a statistically significant decrease in anxiety from T1-T2 for the standard arm and a trend toward a statistically significant decrease in anxiety for the VR arm. From T2-T3, the reduction in anxiety for the VR arm was sustained, resulting in a statistically significant difference from T1-T3, whereas anxiety for the standard arm trended back upward from T2-T3. The VR arm only experienced a statistically significant decrease in stress from T1-T2 and had a statistically significant effect over the standard arm at T3. Both arms experienced statistically significant increases in preparedness from T1-T2 and T1-T3. There were no statistically significant differences in satisfaction or information needs (beyond baseline measurements) for either arm. The VR education intervention was considered feasible to integrate into the existing clinical workflow. This finding, combined with the above results, establishes motivation for future work in the area of VR-based patient education, with a specific recommendation to study larger sample sizes within the RT patient population.

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Engineering Commons