The Care and Treatment of Children with Cancer in Iran
The Society to Support Children with Cancer, also known as Mahak, began operations in 1991 in Tehran as a non-profit, non-governmental organization to support children with cancer and their families.
Presentation of the Mahak Foundation in Tehran
When was the Mahak Foundation created?
The Society to Support Children with Cancer, also known as Mahak, began operations in 1991 in Tehran as a non-profit, non-governmental organization to support children with cancer and their families. During its two decades of activity, by raising public awareness and with the help of volunteer citizens and volunteers, Mahak has achieved significant successes in the areas of medical services and research, becoming an important pole in the field in the Middle East. For example, Mahak has been able to reduce the infant mortality rate by less than 15% while consistently contributing to increased survival through donations, the work of its employees and volunteers, as well as through the use of standard scientific methods to provide the highest quality of care possible.
The name "Mahak" is an abbreviation of the different areas of activity of this institution, namely support for children with cancer, and its logo represents a leaf, which is a symbol of life, with a child and his family who are standing there looking hopefully towards the future.
What is the extent of Mahak's area of activity?
In mid-2013, Mahak provided comprehensive care coverage to more than 19,000 children with cancer. It has broadened its field of action by providing services to more than 90% of its target population and by expanding its support services to 27 public hospitals across Iran.
What are the different actors that originally focused on the Mahak Foundation project?
In 1991, Ms. Saideh Ghods, whose daughter had been cured of cancer and had a deep awareness of the suffering and problems of the disease, founded Mahak as a charitable institution to help poor children with cancer and their families. These aids included the provision of help and information, as well as multiform support during the treatment process in public and university hospitals. The institution is managed by private organizations and individuals. First, at the summit, the board of directors made up of experts in the fields of industry, economics and medicine has the role of enabling Mahak to become an important organization in the region through a creative and effective action policy. It meets on average twice a year. Its members decide on the basic orientations of the organization. The board of directors, comprising 7 members, meets on a weekly basis and is composed of a group of volunteer experts. They are in charge of the implementation of the planned plans, the elaboration of the organization's by-laws as well as the distribution of its budget ... The management of Mahak is ensured by the general manager chosen by the members of the board of directors (or outsiders) for a period of two years. Since 2007, this function is provided by Arasb Ahmadian.
What are the profiles of medical staff members working in Mahak?
The vast majority of medical staff are pediatric hematologists and specialist oncologists, among whom we can mention Azim Mehrvar, director of the Mahak Hospital, Amir Abbas Hedayati Asl, head of the bone marrow transplant section. Strains, Maryam Tashvighi, MD Pediatric Hematologist, Mohammad Faranoush ...
After two decades of existence, what medical facilities does Mahak have?
Mahak has always sought to expand her support across the country, and she currently serves 27 public hospitals in 16 cities across Iran. Mahak has also set up 16 fundraising offices in Tehran and its suburbs. Given that Iran is a big country with a population of nearly 80 million where there are still many needs, we have always wanted to help set up other community organizations. We have provided advice in this area and shared national knowledge and experiences in several provincial towns such as Kerman, Zanjan, Sanandaj and Orumieh, with the aim of strengthening the capacity and infrastructure of other NGOs in accordance with international standards.
What are the cancer treatment methods used in Mahak? Can you tell us more about the radiotherapy service set up by Mithra Ghalibafian?
According to international standards and based on the most recent therapeutic methods, Mahak uses the three main methods used: chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy and spinal cord transplantation. The Mahak radiotherapy unit is equipped with a new accelerator called ONCOR offered by one of the volunteers supporting Mahak. This technique offers a more precise treatment and better protection of the healthy tissues of the patient's body, and thus a more effective recovery for children with cancer. According to Dr. Mithra Ghalibafian, director of the department of radiotherapy at Mahak Hospital, this machine is equipped with a multi-leaf collimator. It thus makes it possible to release rays more adequately on the tumor. This machine is also equipped with an EPID device which, before each session, controls and guarantees the accuracy of the treated area.
The radiotherapy unit, which is open 12 hours a day, was set up in 2007 at Mahak Hospital. Adult patients are also accepted periodically. All patients are treated with specific techniques. Although this treatment is painless, the child is obliged to remain motionless in the radiotherapy room. In these cases, anesthesia is often necessary for young children. There is therefore close cooperation between this department and the department of anesthesiology.
When the radiotherapy department opened in 2007, Odile Oberlin, a doctor at the Institut Gustave Roussy, a French partner of the Mahak Foundation, wrote: "Unfortunately, there are almost insurmountable problems with radiotherapy equipment that do not work and are desperately waiting for spare parts and the help of technicians coming from Europe ".
What about these problems today, have they been settled or are they still partly in place?
There are currently two machines used in the Mahak radiotherapy unit. One was installed in 2007, and the other in 2012. The preparation and maintenance of this radiation therapy equipment is time consuming. However, the fact that these machines must continue to be operational in all circumstances encourages Mahak to a constant search for a solution to make them work.
How many children are currently treated at the hospital each year?
From March 2012 to March 2013, Mahak in 27 public hospitals and 16 cities cared for 5470 children across Iran.
What is the geographical origin of the children treated? In addition to the Iranians, are there any refugee children from Afghanistan and Iraq, for example?
Over the last two decades, the organization has been able to provide comprehensive support to over 19,000 children with cancer of all nationalities, religions and ethnic groups, all of which has been funded exclusively by the generous contributions of individual benefactors as well as through patronage programs. Children with cancer in other countries such as Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Kurdistan region of Iraq, and some African countries have access to similar patient care and services.
What is the nature of the material assistance (housing, transportation ...) and psychological support provided to treated children and their families, who sometimes come from far away to Tehran?
The Social Work Section is one of the subdivisions of the Mahak Support Services Department which, along with its social workers and 120 volunteers, strives to provide material and moral support to children and their families. Their role includes providing advice, guidance and general support when families learn that their child has cancer. Some of these aids include the provision of medical information and sources, counseling and general support to families throughout the diagnosis and treatment stages, information to the family about the peculiarities of the disease. and the most effective methods of care, assistance to families who do not speak Persian, providing them with a free interpreter and translation services, the organization of regular play programs, the opening of a school and a library for hospitalized children, the establishment of cooperation with psychologists specializing in the field of pediatric cancer, assistance in setting up and maintaining effective communication between children medical team and the patient's family, tracking the patient's treatment forms, facilitating payment mechanisms for medical and non-medical support expenses al, assisting families to obtain existing public support in special circumstances such as unemployment, drug abuse, etc., information to families about insurance and social insurance services, provision of elements necessary for the overall physical health of patients such as food, a refrigerator, winter clothing, etc., the provision of a place of residence for families of patients from rural and provincial areas, the supply of Ambulance services for children during treatment ...
Who are the partners of the Foundation? How do these partners intervene?
In recent years, Mahak has cooperated with international pediatric cancer organizations to adhere to international standards in this area, share information on best practices, update medical equipment ... To this end, Mahak is a member of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), the International Confederation of Childhood Cancer Parent Organization (ICCCPO), the International Network for Cancer Treatment and Research (INCTR), the Institut Gustave Roussy (IGR), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
What are the plans for the future of the Foundation?
Mahak is currently planning to create a pain treatment unit, build a second building, plan and launch a global awareness campaign, including on early detection of cancer, or expand the network of its support offices to National level. The organization also plans to implement a comprehensive program of business development in neighboring countries, including treatment, support and specialist training in these countries.