Fighting Cancer's Side Effects With A Video Game For Seniors

Dec 21, 2015

A University of Central Florida College of Nursing professor has landed a nearly $500,000 grant to study chemotherapy side effects in older adults.

The National Institutes of Health awarded the grant, and UCF will build and test an interactive educational video game for older adults. Nursing professor Victoria Loerzel said there is very little research about how older adults react to the side effects of chemotherapy.

“Which is odd because older adults age 65 and older are basically the population diagnosed with cancer the most,” Loerzel said. “So a lot of the research we apply to older people is based on younger populations.”

The project will roll out in two phases over three years. The hope is the new game will show seniors how to treat nausea and vomiting at home, and cut down hospital admissions.

Loerzel will develop and build a video game to show older patients ways to manage nausea and vomiting at home. She said older cancer patients don’t believe they can have an impact on their symptoms – in short, they do nothing and wait for it to pass.

“We’re gonna look at does it prompt them to use more self-management strategies at home and does it prevent them coming back into the hospital during treatment unplanned,” Loerzel said. “So we’re gonna try to prevent some unplanned hospital admissions due to treatment related side effects.”

By 2050, the number of Americans over 65 is expected to double, and aging is a major risk factor for cancer: People over the age of 65 are 60 percent of all new cancer diagnoses and 70 percent of all cancer deaths.

-- Reporter Abe Aboraya is part of WMFE in Orlando. Health News Florida receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.