Experiencing Cancer Virtually

Recovery from cancer treatment can be not only a hard time emotionally, but physically as well. Experts say more than 75 percent of cancer patients experience extreme fatigue during chemotherapy.

A high-tech experience is helping doctors understand the frustration and exhaustion associated with cancer treatment, reports Correspondent Bryan Anderson of CBS affiliate WLNS-TV in Lansing, Michigan.

The virtual reality program called "In My Steps" was tested by cancer survivors and designed by cancer experts. It's a 15-minute presentation that allows doctors and nurses to walk in the footsteps of a cancer patient.

"As you walk through this woman's life -- even for just five minutes -- you realize how tiring it is to perform simple daily tasks that we're used to," says oncology nurse Sandy Mazuchowski of Sparrow Hospital in Lansing.

Participants strap on virtual reality headgear and hand sensors, sit in front of a screen, and find out what a typical day is like having to live with cancer-related fatigue.

"It's an effort to walk from room to room. Everything is like a major project," says oncology nurse Bev Peterson of Sparrow Hospital.

"She's in the kitchen getting ready to make tea when the doorbell ring," Mazuchowski explains. "She's not able to get to the door before the delivery person leaves. She heads back to the kitchen, the phone rings and it takes what seems like forever."

The 15-minute virtual experience has been shown to hospital workers at Sparrow Hospital and major cancer centers around the country.

"I think it gives us a better appreciation of what our patients tell us. It's a different kind of fatigue than we experience just because we're tired," says Peterson.

The simulator was funded by a grant from Ortho Biotech Inc.