Abstract: 38.4% of people in the U.S. will receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. Those facing cancer are likely to experience cancer-related psychological distress. A warped sense of self and one’s circumstances is common as well as depression, anxiety, fear, and feeling discouraged. Depressed survivors are twice as likely to die prematurely. Suicide is twice as likely for cancer survivors. Additionally, cancer patients with high levels of distress have a 32% greater chance of dying. Mental activity affects behavior, and behavior can negatively influence physiological and molecular processes like cellular apoptosis, the cell’s rate of mutation, immunity, and growth speed.
Cancer is, at least in part, beyond the understanding of even our greatest minds and buried in the essential elements of our biology and as a result, must be undertaken with a broad range of experts beyond traditional medicine. Consequently, it should not be surprising that patients struggle to understand their future with this disease. Cancer is an unknown entity. Fearing the unknown future is a source of distress for cancer patients.
Metaphors help patients make sense of their past, present, and future experiences with cancer. The embodiment of a metaphor refers to the idea that cognition and communication form by physical experience and bodily interaction with a tangible world, as well as giving shape to thoughts and feelings.
VR can visualize metaphors or provide alternative ones that help distance patients from cancer and regaining control over it. Games are inherently metaphorical because the user plays as a character and gains said characters abilities. In addition to the metaphorical benefits of VR, the medium also helps reduce psychological distress.
This investigation mapped cancer patients distress, comfort, and metaphors, and connected it with VR game concepts and interactions. Additionally, this investigation explores the metaphorical presentation of cancer in a VR space.