Doctors in Papua New Guinea have warned of a “nationwide problem” of men injecting foreign substances, including coconut oil and silicone, into their penises in an attempt to make them bigger.
A doctor at the Port Moresby General Hospital said that over the last two years his clinic has treated at least 500 men with penile disfigurement and dysfunction as a result of injections.
“I have seen five new cases every week for the past two years and these are the ones that have come forward for treatment. We don’t know how many of them are out there,” said Akule Danlop, a surgeon at the hospital. “I saw seven today.”
The substances injected include coconut oil, baby oil, silicone and cooking oil and the side effects are serious, sometimes irreversible.
“The bulk of them have abnormal, lumpy masses growing over the penis and sometimes involving the scrotum. A good number are coming in with ulcers; they eventually burst open,” said Danlop. “Some of them have difficulty urinating because the foreskin is so swollen it cannot contract.”
Danlop has had to operate on about 90 men to deal with swelling and abnormal lumps or to repair damage to the erectile muscle. In a few cases, men have had problems getting erections after surgery.
“Predominantly they regret what they have done,” said Danlop.
The men who present for treatment span all social groups and are usually aged 18-40, says Danlop, though he has treated teenagers as young as 16 and men over 55.
“There are guys who are in respectable jobs like working at law firms,” he said. “It’s right across PNG, it’s not only [in the capital] Moresby.” Danlop said that a symposium last year, there were surgical reports of these cases from all over the country, including Lae, Vanimo, Madang, and Goroka provinces.
Glen Mola, professor of reproductive health, obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of PNG, said men were being “conned” into these harmful practices by people feeding off their insecurities.
“I don’t think it’s particularly a PNG thing, in every society, adolescents and young men have a thing about their penis,” said Mola.
“Lots of young men are being conned … to pay some money to be enlarged and sustaining quite serious injuries,” said Mola. “It doesn’t do what it’s purported to do and can cause terrible damage, and can mean in some cases that you can’t have sex anymore.”
Mola says the injections were often performed by health workers.
“It’s male nurses mainly I think. These people are doing it off license of course. It’s nothing to do with their regular job. They’re making money on the side. It’s a sort of hype: ‘I can do this for you, I can produce something big for you.’ They fall for this.”
Danlop and other doctors are collecting data from the men they treat in order to find out more about why they are being injected and whether exposure to pornography has affected their decision.
“Mainly the reason they’ve said is to increase the length and the girth of it to enhance their sexual experience with their partner.”
Danlop and Mola said there was a great deal of ignorance that needed to be overcome, and they were trying to raise awareness of the dangers of the injections through newspaper articles and information sessions.
For Danlop, the only surgeon who can surgically treat these sorts of cases in Port Moresby, the situation is frustrating.
“There’s cancer, there are other conditions [that need treatment]. It’s a bit frustrating to see these cases when you have other people who deserve [help] and then these people are causing themselves harm, they do it to themselves.”