The mere thought of anyone coming near their penis with a scalpel is enough to make any man shudder.
In spite of this there has been a marked increase in the number of males who have voluntarily gone under the knife for the surgical removal of the foreskin in recent years, experts say.
But why should such a radical and clearly painful procedure even be a considered at all?
Some experts believe the benefits of circumcision far outweigh any potential risks involved in the surgery.
“It’s definitely something all men should consider,” says Dr Amir Zarrabi, a specialist in urology in the medical and health sciences faculty at Stellenbosch University.
Read more: Mom jailed for refusing to circumcise four-year-old son
“There are many medical advantages to it,” he explains. Not only does it reduce men’s risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases like herpes and HIV, he explains, it also reduces the risk of developing cancer of the penis.
“And then there’s also a lot of scientific evidence that it’s more hygienic,” Dr Zarrabi adds.
Of course circumcision remains a very personal choice, says Rachael Rawlinson of CareWorks, an organisation sponsored by the government which aims to persuade men to voluntarily submit to circumcision.
“That’s why every man should make a well-informed decision based on his own circumstances and preferences.”
Read more: Reignite your relationship spark Although circumcision is regularly performed on new-born babies for religious reasons, recent amendments to the Children’s Act makes it illegal for parents to have their sons circumcised as babies without a valid medical reason. That’s why programmes like CareWorks were launched to persuade adults to voluntarily have the procedure done based on an informed decision.
But exactly what are the advantages of circumcision?
There’s scientific evidence that adult circumcision has the following benefits:
- It reduces a man’s risk of contracting HIV during sexual intercourse.
- It reduces the risk of developing cancer of the penis.
- It’s more hygienic.
- Some men also believe that it promotes better and more pleasant sexual intercourse.
“During sex viruses gain entry to the man’s blood via specific cells present on the foreskin,” Dr Zarrabi explains. “With circumcision the foreskin gets removed and this makes it more difficult for the virus to get inside the body.”
It doesn’t make you immune to the virus, Dr Zarrabi warns. “Safe sex must still be practised.”
What does the procedure involve?
According to Dr Zarrabi it’s quite a minor operation and the chances of serious complications are negligible.
“It’s done easily under local anaesthetic (during which the patient is awake but the injection numbs the surgery area), but if a man prefers a general anaesthetic (to be asleep during the op), there are certain risks attached to the anaesthetic.”
Rawlinson explains that the procedure lasts just an half an hour and that neglible pain can be expected which can be remedied with non-prescription medications like Panado. A recovery period of about two to three days are recommended, and the patient might experience some discomfort for a few days afterwards. Sexual activities should also be avoided for at least six weeks after the operation to give the wound time to heal.
How will it affect your sex life afterwards?
“This a very controversial aspect of circumcision and there isn’t consensus about in the medical world,” Dr Zarrabi says. Some believe that circumcision have a negative influence on their sex life, but Dr Zarrabi says there’s no clear scientific support for this view.
“From a mere anatomical or physiological viewpoint there’s no reason why circumcision should affect a man’s sex life.”
Dr Zarrabi believes it’s a personal decision whether a man gets circumcised.
“For some it’s about reducing the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Others could prefer it for hygienic reasons.”
“Circumcision has many benefits and no proven disadvantages,” he says, “so it’s definitely something men should consider having done.”
- CareWorks aims to have 4,3 million men voluntarily circumcised by the end of 2016. Men who require more information or wish to be circumcised free of charge can call CareWorks on 0860-10-11-10.