Circumcision can never be considered simply just a “snip”. There are many reasons why men circumcise, and some reasons are more important than just impressing partners and enhancing sexual performance.
While there are religious and traditional practices that compel some men to circumcise, clinically some men circumcise to prevent diseases like urinary tract infections.
“Circumcision requires a thorough knowledge of the anatomy and the complex functions of the foreskin as an integral part of the penis. It is very important to know that the foreskin is not just an insignificant piece of skin,” says paediatric surgeon Dr Daniel Sidler.
Sidler believes that informed consent during circumcision should be very thorough, clear and unambiguous.
Some young men might have a critical phimosis – a narrowing at the tip of the foreskin. Dr Sidler says such phimosis is typical and normal in infancy but should resolve before or during puberty.
“A tight phimosis can be painful and could make intercourse virtually impossible for adults.”
“This condition can serve as an example where a medical circumcision could be justified as an intervention should other treatment possibilities fail. All other pathology is rare,” he says.
According to the American Academy of Paediatrics, some of the most important benefits of circumcision include, but are not limited to:
- Less risk of urinary tract infections. These infections are more common in uncircumcised males and less in circumcised males.
- Less risk of STIs. Circumcised men might have a lower risk of certain sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Still, safe sexual practices remain essential.
- Less penile problems. Less risk or phimosis.
- Less risk of penile cancer. Although cancer of the penis is rare, it’s less common in circumcised men. In addition, cervical cancer is less common in the female sexual partners of circumcised men.
Besides the possibilities of side effects relating to anaesthesia, some of the most common complications associated with male circumcision are bleeding and infection.
Rarely, circumcision might result in foreskin problems where:
- the foreskin might be cut too short or too long;
- the foreskin might fail to heal properly; or
- the remaining foreskin might reattach to the end of the penis, requiring minor surgical repair.
Sidler reiterates that should the procedure be indicated necessary in an adult male, it should be done by an experienced practitioner and with administration of appropriate anaesthetic and analgesia.
“Circumcision can be very traumatic on multiple levels, and we know now that trauma has far-reaching implications, including brain changes. When done correctly, this can all be prevented,” he adds.
Sidler advises any surgeon who is due to perform any circumcision on males to explain to the patient the complications associated with male circumcision, the risks and benefits while maintaining that it is important for a male keen on being circumcised to thoroughly study the health complications associated with this practice.