Virtual Mind Study

Virtual reality guided mindfulness meditation for cancer-related pain

Chronic cancer-related pain (CRP) has a significant negative impact on quality of life. Mindfulness is hypothesized to mitigate chronic CRP by regulating emotional reactions to pain and is already being used by many cancer survivors to improve quality of life. In recent years, there has been an interest in the use of virtual reality to deliver mindfulness meditation. Virtual reality provides an immersive and engaging environment which may enhance one’s focused attention to present moment experiences, potentially making mindfulness less effortful and more efficacious for patients with chronic pain. There has been little research in this area for people with a history of cancer. The aim of this mixed-methods study is to evaluate the feasibility of a virtual reality guided mindfulness (VRGM) intervention offered to adult cancer patients and survivors with chronic CRP. Secondary objectives are to evaluate the benefits and mechanisms of action of VRGM and to explore participants’ experiences with study participation.  

This mixed-methods feasibility study employs a single-arm, pretest–posttest design with semi-structured interviews. Participants are enrolled in a 6-week, home-based intervention that consists of 15-30 minutes of daily VRGM practice. The primary outcome is feasibility as assessed by accrual rates, retention in the study, intervention adherence, questionnaire completion and side-effect rates. Participants are assessed on psychosocial outcome measures (i.e., pain, sleep, depressive and anxiety symptoms, fatigue, quality of life, trait mindfulness) before and after the intervention, and 6 weeks post-intervention (follow-up). Pain interference is assessed weekly during the intervention period, and then again at follow-up. Diaries are used to monitor daily changes in pain levels, analgesic use, sleep quality and pain interference with sleep. Factors with possible moderation or mediation effects (i.e., levels of immersion and presence in the virtual environment, trait mindfulness, amount of VRGM practice) are assessed in relation to changes in pain. Qualitative information provides subjective detail on participants’ experience with VRGM to complement quantitative data. The target sample size is 15 participants.

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