Mental Health and Wellbeing: The Forgotten Impact of Cancer
Cancer is among the leading causes of death worldwide and by 2040, the number of new cancer cases per year is expected to rise to 29.5 million while the number of cancer-related deaths are expected to reach 16.4 million according to the American Cancer Society. Today there are over 18 million cancer patients and survivors in the US that are not only struggling with a physical condition but with one that has a significant impact on their mental health. If you know someone who’s gone through cancer treatment, you know it’s a tough road and an extremely difficult challenge. Beyond the physical effects of the condition cancer patients experience tremendous distress, anxiety, and depression symptoms just trying to keep it all together.
Mental Health of Cancer Patients
According to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), cancer-related distress can be defined as “a multidetermined unpleasant emotional experience of a psychological, social, and/or spiritual nature that may interfere with the ability to cope effectively with cancer, its physical symptoms, and its treatment”. Recent research shows that approximately 50% of cancer patients report clinical levels of distress while another study shows a 23.4% prevalence of depressive and anxious symptomatology.
Current Mental Health Treatment Gaps
Data shows that untreated psychiatric comorbidities in patients with cancer have a significant impact on quality of life and millions of cancer patients are in need of appropriate treatment. The problem is that current mental health care delivery for cancer patients is not living up to its promise and is often overlooked. Current treatments are intermittent at best, do a poor job of engaging patients and hospitals don't have enough support staff on hand.
The United States is suffering from a dramatic shortage of psychiatrists and other mental health providers. It’s estimated that 37% of the population lives in mental health shortage areas and the nation needs an additional 6,398 mental health providers to fill these shortage gaps.
The high cost of cancer treatments is another reason why mental health issues may not be getting the attention they deserve. Monthly drug costs are oftentimes more than the earnings and or the insurance coverage of the patients and many are priced out of hope for a cure and the support needed to overcome their mental health problems. Low-income families, the uninsured or underinsured cannot afford the rising costs of cancer treatments and that is without factoring in mental health.
Filling the Gaps with VR Therapy
Rocket VR Health aims to improve the quality of life of millions of patients by drastically lowering mental health treatment costs using virtual reality. Our digital interventions do not directly treat cancer but are used to reduce side effects and address the mental health and quality of life of patients during and after treatments. We are launching a pipeline of prescription and nonprescription digital therapeutics that take proven mental health treatment modalities and make them affordable, scalable, and easily integrated into hospital systems. By using innovative VR technology and clinically validated therapies we hope to make a difference in the life of cancer patients whether they are in the hospital or at home.