Virtual world to help children cope with cancer

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Virtual world to help children cope with cancer

Researchers in Canada are developing an online virtual world in which children with cancer can talk with others about their illness, and manage symptoms caused by cancer and other chronic diseases.

By studying children’s perceptions of their cancer symptoms, researchers hope to discover methods for assessing symptoms, and better evaluate the effectiveness of interventions.

“Cancer is a very scary word for children,” said nursing researcher Dr. Roberta Woodgate of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada.

“We want to help them deal with the subject in a way that is most appropriate to them, and at their level.”

The interactive game will represent symptoms in a non-violent story such as travelling through a jungle or a haunted house and encountering challenges, or symptom experiences, and the opportunity and means to meet the challenges.

Interviews with seven to 17 year olds will help determine content in separate games for children and teenagers.

Woodgate believes gaming will teach children with chronic diseases how to recognise and manage real-life symptom experiences such as fatigue and pain. In addition to helping children take their minds off their illness, Woodgate said the virtual world would allow children to “act” and “react” in a safe and comfortable environment.

“I hope that gaming as an intervention will improve children’s symptom assessment and management, and their quality of life. What we learn may improve the experiences of families and professionals,” she said.
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