Researchers in University College Cork are piloting a study which indicates that Virtual Reality (VR) could be successful in making men aware of the risk of testicular cancer.
Those behind the project, led by Dr Mohamad Saab, a lecturer in the UCC School of Nursing and Midwifery, designed a three-level VR experience and tested its feasibility and usability with 15 men recruited from a university.
Afterwards, the participants filled a 43-item questionnaire and agreed that the technology is comfortable to use, testicular disorders are well represented, the use of light humour is appropriate, and the scientific facts are easy to understand.
"Participants also agreed that the intervention was suited for men from different sociodemographic backgrounds and felt confident using VR," the study said.
The researchers developed the E-MAT (enhance men’s awareness of testicular disorders) program due to a lack of awareness of testicular disorders among men and the low likelihood that they would seek help for symptoms of testicular disease.
In collaboration with the Department of Computer Science in UCC the format of the VR game was developed, with participants wearing a VR helmet and navigating with an X-box controller while listening to an accompanying voiceover on headphones.
Dr Saab said the target group is secondary school into college age as the target population is those aged 18 to 50 - the age bracket in which testicular disease is most likely to occur.
The game is split into three levels, starting with a 3D space with two walnuts used to represent the testes. By level three the voiceover reiterates key messages from the game on the identification of testicular symptoms and how to seek help.
The research concluded: "To the best of our knowledge, VR has not been used to promote men’s health in the past, let alone increasing their awareness and help-seeking for testicular disorders. We recommend testing the effectiveness of E-MAT and making it available on public platforms that men can access at their own leisure."
A related article by the same authors said the game could be customised to run in a normal desktop environment for those with VR sickness or limited access to technology, and added: "VR can also be used to raise men’s awareness of a number of health topics such as sexually transmitted infections and cancer prevention."