Defense Mechanisms and Utilization in Cancer Patients Undergoing Radiation Therapy: A Pilot Study

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A group of 49 patients who had been diagnosed with cancer during the preceding year and who were receiving radiation therapy were assessed for their use of defense mechanisms, as well as for their level of psychological distress. In addition, their utilization of medical services was determined. It was predicted that the use of services that were under the patients' control—namely, requesting extra outpatient visits and making trips to the emergency department—would be related to the patients' use of defense mechanisms, whereas a treatment option not under the patients' control—overnight hospitalization based on physicians' assessment of condition—would not be related to defense use. The findings confirmed the hypotheses. Outpatient visits were strongly predicted by defense use, whereas hospitalization was determined by psychological distress. However, emergency department visits were determined by both defense use and psychological distress. In addition, an interaction between defense and distress was found to predict hospitalization.

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