LPNI Health Topic – April 2016


Men … and Doctors

Men are notorious for avoiding doctors!   In past years I have regularly attended synodical conventions of the Lutheran Church of Australia, at both national and District level.  I have had a display booth with posters and brochures on a wide variety of health-related topics, and I have offered free blood pressure checks.  Many people have taken advantage of this.


I have been particularly surprised at the number of male delegates who had elevated blood pressure levels.  I can remember one national synod meeting where the blood pressures of two delegates were so dangerously high that I had to immediately refer them to the local hospital.  One of them – a leading lay member of the church – subsequently thanked me for saving his life.  He became a staunch advocate of the Parish Nurse ministry!


Many of the men who came to have their blood pressure checked confided in me that they had not been to see a doctor for years … and often they were quite proud of the fact!   This was particularly the case with men who came from rural parishes, and were from a farming background.  In trying to impress on them the importance of having a regular medical check-up I would remind them of the regular care they gave to their farm machines – tractors, autoheaders, trucks and other implements – and point out that their God-given body was an even more marvellous and more important ‘machine’ than any of these.  I would remind them of how often they checked the tyre pressure on their car, and either changed the oil themselves or had the car serviced.  Mostly they got the point!


A regular medical check-up can detect health problems in the early stage, which gives a much better chance of heading them off.  This includes problems such as high blood pressure and raised cholesterol levels which can predispose to heart attacks or stroke.   


At times I have also organised speakers on prostate cancer for men’s groups in my congregation.  In my experience this is something that many men avoid checking, with deadly results.  Prostate cancer is an age-related disease, which means the chance of developing it increases with age.  The risk of getting prostate cancer by the age of 75 is one in seven.  By the age of 85, this increases to one in five. 

In Australia, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men.  More than 3,000 men in Australia die of prostate cancer every year.  More men in Australia die of prostate cancer than women die of breast cancer.   Yet in my experience women are more likely to have a regular mammogram than men are to have a digital rectum examination or even a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood test.


I still have vivid memories of the last time I organised a guest speaker on prostate cancer for a group of men at my congregation.  He was a prostate cancer survivor, and told his story, stressing how he’d been like most men in his past, and had put off having a check-up.  The sequel to this came some six weeks or so later, when one of the men of the congregation sidled up to me after church one Sunday morning, and thanked me for organising the speaker. ‘I had a check-up with my doctor the following week’, he told me, ‘and he thinks he’s caught it in time!’ 


One of our roles as Parish Nurses is to encourage men to have a regular check-up with their doctor!


Lynette T Wiebusch

Dernancourt, South Australia