A systematic review and meta-analysis found that a virtual reality (VR)-based intervention had a positive effect on symptoms during rehabilitation among patients with breast cancer. These findings were published in BMJ Open.

Long-term adverse effects of breast cancer include limited joint range of motion, pain, and psychological distress. Rehabilitation management has been found to improve symptoms and quality of life. However, some patients lose interest and motivation over the course of treatment.

To evaluate whether VR-based interventions may enhance outcomes, investigators from Zhengzhou University in China searched publication databases for studies of VR-based interventions in the breast cancer setting.


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A total of 8 studies comprising 6 to 120 participants each were included in this analysis. The VR interventions were either immersive or nonimmersive experiences.

VR was observed to significantly decrease anxiety (standard mean difference [SMD], −2.07; 95% CI, −3.81 to −0.34; P =.02; I2, 95%), depression (MD, −8.3; P <.05), and pain (MD, −1.5; P <.05) and to improve abduction of the upper limbs (MD, 15.54; 95% CI, 12.79-18.29; P <.00001; I2, 0%) and in general, cognitive function.

VR had no effect on fatigue (SMD, −0.92; 95% CI, −4.47 to 2.62; P =.61; I2, 99%).

This study was limited by the various study designs and the inability to perform pooled analyses on some outcomes.

VR-based interventions were found to improve psychological and physical symptoms in the breast cancer setting; however, there was little evidence to support VR-based interventions for improving fatigue. Additional large-scale pilot studies are needed to validate these findings.

Reference Zhang H, Xu H, Zhang Zx, Zhang Q. Efficacy of virtual reality-based interventions for patients with breast cancer symptom and rehabilitation management: a systematic review and meta-analysis.BMJ Open. 2022;12(3):e051808. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2021-051808