Does every guy need circumcision
While a rabbi speaks about new life and making the world a better place, a woman quietly sets out gauze, scissors and other tools on a table near the altar. The atmosphere is a little tense. We have all gathered to celebrate this brand-new baby. We have also come to witness the removal of his foreskin.
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Circumcision in men
The day your wife gives birth to a baby boy, the kind, bespectacled face of Marvin L. Wang, M. Wang has a perky, conversational bedside manner that puts everyone at ease. I have to hustle to keep up with him as he strides energetically between hospital rooms.
Right now he's congratulating a pair of new parents. Larry is standing on wobbly legs, looking both ecstatic and shell-shocked, while Joy sits serenely, holding their newborn son to her breast. Wang jokes with the new parents a bit and then says, "I understand you may want to have a circumcision for your baby.
Circumcision, of course, is the surgical removal of the penile foreskin from the glans — the fleshy crown of the penis. It is one of the most commonly performed procedures in American hospitals, and except for abortion, it may be the most controversial. The procedure has long been known to reduce the spread of a few rare, serious diseases, and to prevent a few annoying, uncomfortable ones.
But in , the American Academy of Pediatrics AAP determined that the risk of surgical complications, though small, nearly canceled out the benefits.
They neither discouraged nor recommended the procedure. Since then, 16 states have eliminated Medicaid coverage for nearly all circumcisions.
This discovery is one that, over the next two decades, could save three million lives in Africa alone. Now, no one believes that the potential health benefits for American males are nearly as great, or as urgent, as they are for men in Africa, where HIV is spread mostly through heterosexual intercourse. Still, similar study results are turning up on this continent, as well. A team of researchers from the CDC, Johns Hopkins, and the Baltimore health department examined the records of more than 1, African American males — all heterosexual — who tested positive for HIV at Maryland clinics.
Uncircumcised men were 50 percent more likely to be infected. These results have caused many U. The weight of scientific evidence might be shifting in favor of circumcision. Larry, the new dad, is circumcised himself but never thought much about circumcision until his wife became pregnant. Wang, "but when I finally said I wanted to do it, she said, 'Whoa! We have to talk.
Rates of women who are opting for preventive mastectomies, such as Angeline Jolie, have increased by an estimated 50 percent in recent years, experts say. But many doctors are puzzled because the operation doesn't carry a percent guarantee, it's major surgery -- and women have other options, from a once-a-day pill to careful monitoring.
Health benefits of circumcision Pain, of course, is the first question that comes to mind whenever the words cut and penis are used in the same sentence. Ask Marilyn Fayre Milos about pain — or better yet, don't.
The unlucky baby, she later wrote, was "strapped spread-eagle to a plastic board Then as the doctor, using no anesthesia, began cutting into the penis with a scalpel, "the baby began to gasp and choke, breathless from his shrill continuous screams Not quite. Wang says the operation rarely hurts much anymore; since the s, it's become routine in U. For every 1, circumcisions, there are maybe three complications, nearly all of which amount to a little unexpected bleeding or a treatable infection.
In return, according to the AAP, circumcised boys have a lower risk of urinary-tract infections and penile cancer, and, indeed, "a slightly lower risk of getting sexually transmitted infections STIs , including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Larry seems to search the doctor's face for a hint of what to do, but Dr. Wang is as neutral as his white hospital coat.
Circumcised or not, every man owes his foreskin a great debt of gratitude for its service in the womb. In the third month of gestation, when the nascent penis begins to bloom, the foreskin forms a little protective blanket under which the rest of the penis can safely grow.
But once you and your penis are fully baked, the advantage of a foreskin is not clear. Some scientists speculate that it protected the prehistoric penis as it swung, naked, through thick forests and over tall grasses; and unless you take your penis on that sort of excursion, they argue, you don't need a foreskin. That perceived uselessness may be one reason circumcision has such a long and varied history.
Archeological evidence suggests that the practice may be at least 6, years old. Muslims and Jews, along with the aborigines of Australia, the Aztecs and Mayans of this hemisphere, and many other cultures all independently adopted this squirm-inducing practice, and it seems unlikely they'd have done so unless they were convinced that it conferred some earthly benefit.
Here in the United States, foreskins were left mostly undisturbed until the second half of the nineteenth century. More than , American GIs based there slacked off on their cleaning regimens and came down with foreskin-related ouches — chiefly, balanoposthitis inflammation of the foreskin and glans , phimosis a foreskin that's too tight to retract over the glans , and paraphimosis a foreskin stuck in the retracted position.
After the war, doctors advanced a theory that circumcision reduces rates of cervical cancer — a hypothesis now confirmed by scientific research. Circumcision became routine, but anesthesia wasn't part of the plan. That, more than any other factor, may have provoked the fiery anti-circumcision movement that casts its long shadow over the Internet.
Anesthesia now used during procedure Isaac is a newborn whose mother, months before she gave birth, made the decision to circumcise him. He awaits Dr. Wang atop a small operating table. His eyes open wide and he commences sucking with gusto. Sugar, Dr. Wang says, is known to send a rush of endorphins to certain parts of the brain, dulling sensitivity to pain.
Wang gently wraps Isaac's legs in a soft harness. Until fairly recently, he remarks, it was standard practice to restrain babies' arms, too. Fortunately, Dr. Wang says, circumcision is no longer performed in American hospitals without anesthesia, as Milos described it. After a quick examination of Isaac's manhood if that's the right word for it , Dr. Wang administers four evenly spaced injections of lidocaine around the base of the baby's penis; Isaac shows no distress.
At that point, Dr. Wang waits 5 minutes for the anesthetic to take effect, then swabs Isaac's privates with sterilizing iodine and gets down to business. He arranges a clamp that pulls the foreskin forward, off the penis, where it can be safely cut off with surgical scissors in one snip. Isaac became agitated only once — when his sugary pacifier fell from his mouth. Wang, "the part they hate most is being washed off afterward. They don't like to feel the cold.
People try to think up new justifications for it, and when one doesn't work, they come up with another. If you go on the Internet, you'll "find out" precisely what Larry found out. The problem is, it's not true. I Googled the word "circumcision," and two of the first three sites that popped up were the Circumcision Research Center and the Circumcision Information and Resource Pages — titles that suggest unbiased collections of data.
In fact, both sites are run by anti-circumcision crusaders. Many of these activists have spent decades arguing that circumcision has no medical value, and recent scientific revelations have left them red-faced — not with embarrassment, but anger. According to Milos, for instance, all three of the Africa trials were part of what she calls an "ill-fated plot to circumcise everyone regardless of AIDS status!
Daniel Halperin, Ph. Halperin, a senior research scientist at Harvard's school of public health, concluded that circumcision played a role and he paid a high price for saying so — many people thought he was nuts. In some ways, since he's been proved right, the price has become steeper. To get a flavor of it, look at his inbox. But it's not without its rewards. The Africa trials add substantial weight to a mounting pile of evidence that circumcision also reduces the spread of other sexually transmitted illnesses, including several types of cancer and venereal disease.
The journal BMC Infectious Diseases published a study co-authored by Halperin and four others that compared rates of cervical cancer — caused by the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, or HPV — in more than countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
In countries where fewer than 20 percent of men were circumcised, cervical-cancer rates were about 70 percent higher than in countries where more than 80 percent were circumcised. All of this makes many public-health experts in the United States lament the decision of some states to withdraw Medicaid coverage for routine circumcision.
Verdict still out on circumcision So what's the verdict? Should all males be circumcised? Not one doctor or scientist interviewed for this article expressed that opinion. Robert Bailey, Ph. Most of the diseases [circumcision] is known to prevent are pretty rare in the United States. But, Halperin notes, "those illnesses may be rare at least partly because circumcision has been so widespread here.
But whatever you decide for you and yours, do not let anyone tell you circumcision can't slow the march of HIV. At a time when billions of American tax dollars are pouring into Africa to fight AIDS, it is extremely important that money is spent on methods that have been proved to help. Elliot Jones not his real name underwent circumcision at age He had a painful case of phimosis, a condition in which the foreskin tightens around the head of the penis, and surgery was the solution.
Most patients choose general anesthesia for the hour-long surgery and go back to work the next day, says Dr. For a week after the surgery, Jones would wake up in pain from a morning erection pulling at the dissolvable stitches. But after 2 weeks, his wife was more than ready to test out his newly shorn package. The sensation? Now that it's aired out, it's a nonissue. Show more text. Show discussion. Men's health on NBCNews.
To circumcise or not to circumcise?
Before circumcision, the foreskin covers the tip of the penis glans. After circumcision, the tip of the penis is exposed. Circumcision is the surgical removal of the skin covering the tip of the penis. The procedure is fairly common for newborn boys in certain parts of the world, including the United States.
Back to Health A to Z. The foreskin is the retractable fold of skin that covers the end of the penis. It's a continuation of the skin that covers the whole penis. Read about circumcision for medical reasons in boys. But alternative treatments, such as topical steroids , are sometimes preferred.
Should all males be circumcised?
When should I stop taking birth control in order to get pregnant? Can I drink that glass of wine? Cloth or disposable diapers? Ultimately, being aware of the risks and benefits will prepare you to make an informed decision no matter when that day finally comes. The first circumcision record dates back to BC seriously! Experts report the procedure was initially only performed on upper-class males, but became a more common medical procedure during the s. By the 20th century , circumcision was mainstream in many English-speaking countries, however, its popularity has decreased over time as rates in the United States have fallen from
Whether you're expecting a baby boy or have just welcomed your new little guy into the world, you have an important decision to make before you take your son home: whether to circumcise him. For some families, the choice is simple because it's based on cultural or religious beliefs. But for others, the right option isn't as clear. Before you make a circumcision decision, it's important to talk to your doctor and consider some of the issues.
If you were wondering why, read on to learn more. All boys are born with foreskin that covers the tip of their penis. Circumcision is a procedure in which the foreskin the skin covering the tip of the penis is removed. It is more commonly done in the United States than other parts of the world.
Why young men are turning to circumcision
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