Objective: To determine parents’ understanding of the foreskin, in an effort to improve parent education.
Methods: A questionnaire was administered to parents of patients attending outpatient clinics at the Wendy Fitzwilliam Paediatric Hospital (Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex), the San Fernando General Hospital and the Scarborough General Hospital during an eight-month period. It comprised 15 questions, 10 of which asked about the role of the foreskin, retraction and views on circumcision.
Results: There were 520 completed questionnaires. The majority of participants were mothers. Twelve per cent of parents had a child who was circumcised. The reasons for circumcision were mostly because of phimosis (31%), religious reasons (26% Islamic), personal preference (21%) and infection (20%). Regarding the need for circumcision, 31% of parents believed all boys should be circumcised and 36% did not agree. The majority of parents felt that by one year, full retraction should occur and 66% of parents felt that circumcision should be performed if the foreskin is not retractable. With respect to hygiene, 75% felt that circumcision made cleaning the penis easier and 43% believed the foreskin causes infections. Concerning HIV/AIDS, 67% did not believe that circumcision helps to prevent its transmission. When considering penile cancer and sexual function, more than 50% of parents did not know the role of the foreskin. Approximately 25% of parents answered ‘do not know’ to most of the questions.
Conclusion: Despite foreskin pathology being a common paediatric problem, it is clear that there is a lot of misunderstanding and ignorance of the facts relating to the function of the foreskin in children. There is an obvious need for better parent education.