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Tue, Feb 11 2:00am · Awake for brain surgery to remove a tumor

A brain tumor diagnosis was made worse for Melissa Whiley of Gainesville, Florida when she was told the mass location made surgery to remove it dangerous, if not impossible.

Then she came to Mayo Clinic and learned about an operation that would make her an active part of removing her tumor. It’s called “awake brain surgery.”

Watch: Melissa Whiley’s Mayo Clinic story.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (3:06) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please “Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network.” Read the script.

Melissa loves to race, so being sidelined was tough.

“Sitting still and not feeling good, it’s not really my jam,” she says.

But something big put the brakes on this active 40-year-old.

“I collapsed in the hotel we were staying at ― blacked out,” she explains. “I don’t know what, you know … happened or how long I was out.”

“Melissa basically had a rare type of a low-grade glioma or a grade 2 glioma,” says Dr. Kaisorn Chaichana, a Mayo Clinic neurologic surgeon.

A brain tumor. And there was more bad news for Melissa and her husband, Chris Whiley.

“Unfortunately, her tumor is right in that area that controls speech — her ability to pronounce words,” adds Dr. Chaichana.

It was also near important areas of the brain that form memories, so leaving it in place could mean more problems.

“That glioma could become a higher-grade glioma, or lead to more seizures or be catastrophic,” says Dr. Chaichana.

On the other hand, surgery to remove the tumor could compromise Melissa’s speech.

“It was scary,” says Melissa. “To not be able to communicate would literally be my worst nightmare.”

But Dr. Chaichana had seen this type of tumor before, and he knew how to remove it without harming Melissa’s ability to communicate.

“He said, ‘We’re going to have to do an awake craniotomy,'” explains Melissa. “And my body felt like Jell-O. And I couldn’t catch my breath. Really, I was, like, ‘What?'”

Awake craniotomy or awake brain surgery allows a Mayo Clinic surgical team to ask questions of the patient and monitor activity in the brain during the responses. This back-and-forth helps ensure the surgery to remove a tumor isn’t affecting the patient’s communication and cognition skills.

“A lot of centers perform awake surgery,” says Dr. Chaichana. “But we take it one step further. We rely on a multidisciplinary team to do the surgery.”

“It was surreal,” says Melissa, in trying to explain the surgery. “I don’t even know how to describe it.”

“We put her asleep for the opening part, which means making the incision and removing the bone overlying the lesion,” explains Dr. Chaichana. “Then we woke her up.”

“And you could see them all working together in surgery,” adds Melissa. “And it was a well-oiled machine.”

“She participated in all these activities ― naming objects, executive function, calculations and memory,” says Dr. Chaichana.

The team of specialists was testing Melissa’s language, problem-solving and reasoning skills, hearing, vision, and her memory to ensure they could resect the tumor area safely without compromising cognitive function.

“It’s just fascinating that they can avoid all of that … super-eloquent tissue to just get the tumor,” adds Melissa.

Thanks in part to Melissa’s help, the surgery was a success.

“So the scans look perfect,” explains Dr. Chaichana in a follow-up appointment with Melissa.

“I will never know how you can do that,” Melissa admits. “That is just incredible.”

“You allowed us to help you, and now it looks good,” says Dr. Chaichana.

Just a few months later, Melissa’s back at the track, on the go and pedaling toward another goal.

“Of course I got back on that bike,” says Melissa. “I feel amazing. Awake craniotomy ― totally worth it.”

Dec 19, 2019 · Superhero support for kids in cancer treatment

Superheroes come in all sizes. At Mayo Clinic, some of the smallest are kids getting proton therapy treatment for cancer. Now staffers are giving these patients some special help in this tough fight.

Watch the video.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (2:12) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please “Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network.” Read the script.

“We do this because cancer is a scary thing,” says Mike Hamilton, a Mayo Clinic radiation therapist.

What these Mayo Clinic radiation therapists do is give kids in a cancer fight some superhero-inspired support.

“So these masks are used to hold the patient still during their radiation therapy treatments,” explains Hamilton. “We use them to immobilize and accurately treat the tumors that are underneath. When it’s not painted, it’s a little scary.”

Enter Hamilton and team. When they get done, the scary medical gear gets a powerful makeover.

“They know once they put the mask on, they’re kind of like that superperson, and they can get through the treatment,” says George Kozan, a Mayo Clinic radiation therapist. “And it kind of pushes them through.”

“These masks are theirs,” adds Hamilton, as he continues coloring on a mask. “There’s a lot of pressure to get it right.”

Each reusable mask starts as a flat piece of Kevlar that’s warmed, molded and cooled to create a perfect fit for the patient.

“And these marks are for our alignment for treatment,” adds Hamilton, referencing some of the writing on the mask. “So I don’t want to go over those marks.”

Coloring very carefully, these radiation therapists-turned-artists bring all kinds of patient requests to life, including lots of superheroes, as well as movie and cartoon characters.

“It’s between patients, whenever we have some downtime or a break,” says Andrew Saunders, a Mayo Clinic radiation therapist. “It takes me several hours.”

“It does in a way take a bit of practice,” Kozan adds.

They can be hours’ of work, but, according to all involved, it’s worth every minute.

“They don’t get to decide when they come for treatment, what they have done for treatment,” says Hamilton. “This is something they have for them. This is their say.”

Parents love it.

“Our 11-year-old daughter, she has to have a mask to hold her head still during treatments,” says Valentin Rivish, a parent of a patient. “It used to be this off-white-looking, plain mask, you know, that you wear. And now it looks very cool.”

An appreciative parent is a good start, but it’s the kids’ feedback that really fuels this crew.

“I gotta say, yeah, the smile that I received for one of them said it all,” says Kozan.

“The reaction of the patient is really what I want to see — something positive out of something that can be a negative experience,” adds Saunders.

“It’s not easy to wear the mask, but if it makes them brave, makes them get through their treatment a little easier, that’s my goal,” concludes Hamilton.

When the kids are done with treatment, they get to take home their mask, where it can serve as a reminder of their bravery during a tough time. 

Oct 3, 2019 · Mayo Clinic Minute: How artificial intelligence can signal future heart issues

What if your doctor’s stethoscope could predict your heart’s future? Thanks to artificial intelligence, it’s already happening for some Mayo Clinic patients.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (1:00) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please “Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network.” Read the script.

“This is where it records sound, and I have it connected to a smartphone,” explains Dr. Paul Friedman, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, as he demonstrates a souped-up stethoscope that shows artificial intelligence in action.

The stethoscope not only digitally records the sounds heard by Dr. Friedman, it also records an electrocardiogram of the heart’s electrical activity.

The data is run through a neural network — a computer system trained by crunching hundreds of thousands of sets of similar readings, so that it becomes expert in looking at a focused problem.

“It gets to a point where it gets very good at seeing very subtle patterns,” says Dr. Friedman.

The result is a simple test that can read current heart conditions and, using those subtle patterns, predict possible future problems.

“Within 15 seconds, you have some of the skill of an expert cardiologist in your pocket,” adds Dr. Friedman.

He says this type of artificial intelligence in diagnosis is the way of the future.

“We have plans to expand it, to hopefully prevent people from walking through our hallways, having a weak heart pump and having it undetected, when there are things we could do about it,” concludes Dr. Friedman.

Sep 20, 2019 · Mayo Clinic Minute: Meal replacement reminders

As meal replacement options expand, it’s important to remember two things: Not all replacements are created equal, and not all meals should be replaced. 

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (1:00) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please “Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network.” Read the script.

“Meal replacement shakes and products should not replace eating or consuming whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables,” says Anya Guy, a Mayo Clinic dietitian. “If you’re looking to implement these into your diet, talk to your physician or a dietitian about how many you can have per day.”

Guy says when you do need to replace a meal with a bar or shake, ignore the packaging claims and read the nutrition label.

“Look for whole-grain ingredients or whole-food ingredients, which might be nuts or seeds,” she explains.

An ingredient like nuts can boost the protein in a bar and can contribute to the product’s fiber content. 

“A good amount of fiber will help you feel fuller longer,” she adds.

Guy says to choose replacements that offer at least a part of your daily vitamin and mineral needs.

“Many of these products are also fortified with vitamins, minerals and micronutrients. It’s really a personal preference on what you prefer added to your bars or shakes,” concludes Guy.

Finally, check for added sugar and pass on replacements that come with too much of it.

Sep 4, 2019 · Mayo Clinic Minute: Avoiding kidney stones

About 1 in 10 Americans will have to deal with kidney stones in their lifetime.

The stones, which are mineral and salt deposits, happen for various reasons. However, one dietary issue is a common culprit.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (1:00) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please “Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network.” Read the script.

“Kidney stones — they form in your kidney itself,” explains Dr. John Lieske, a Mayo Clinic nephrologist. “And at some point, they can break off of wherever they’re attached in your kidney. And then that’s usually when people get into trouble.”

Dr. Lieske says that besides the intense pain associated with kidney stones, there’s a chance for infection.

A diet high in protein and sodium can put you at an increased risk for the stones. But the biggest issue is lack of water.

“If you’re not drinking enough water, which is part of your diet, your urine’s going to be more concentrated,” adds Dr. Lieske.

Concentrated urine allows small particles within it to stick together, increasing the chance for stones. So prevention can start at the tap.

Being hydrated, that’s a simple one,” concludes Dr. Lieske.

To ward off stones, drink water every day. Adult men should aim for at least 3.7 liters. Adult women and older teens should get at least 2.7 liters.

Aug 12, 2019 · Mayo Clinic Minute: 4 ideas for avoiding the 'freshman 15'

In this season of packing up for college, here’s a warning about packing on the “freshman 15.”

“It’s usually not actually 15 (pounds). It’s more often seven or eight,” says Dr. Denise Millstine, a Mayo Clinic internal medicine physician.

Still, it’s extra weight that Dr. Millstine says is often caused by a change in activity and eating habits from high school to college.

“If you’re going to be eating at a cafeteria or eating out more, stop and think: How am I going to manage this?” she says.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (1:00) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please “Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network.” Read the script.

Dr. Millstine offers four daily goals for every freshman. No. 1: Eat plants.

“Ideally, at least five fruits and vegetables every day,” says Dr. Millstine.

No. 2: Don’t drink a lot of calories.

“If you’re going to class and you’re grabbing a coffee drink or a smoothie, it can have a lot of calories in it,” explains Dr. Millstine. “Same thing with energy drinks.”

No. 3: Find ways to move.

“Take the stairs instead of the elevator,” she explains. “Always make sure you’re walking to class.”

And No. 4: Get decent sleep.

“Really trying to get that seven to nine hours of sleep consistently, whatever your body requires, can help you to manage your weight.” Dr. Millstine concludes.

Aug 7, 2019 · Mayo Clinic Minute: Staying healthy while at college

College life means close quarters, and that can create an environment for getting sick.

“Often, what the person next to you is doing is affecting your health,” says Dr. Denise Millstine, a Mayo Clinic internal medicine physician.

That’s why Dr. Millstine says a strong defense is key — starting with the annual influenza vaccine.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (0:57) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please “Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network.” Read the script.

“It’s a good idea to get that on the early side if you’re at college because certainly you don’t want to be sick when it’s exam time or projects are due,” says Dr. Millstine.

It’s also important to stay on schedule with previously prescribed medications and to scrub your way through every semester.

“We always hear about washing our hands, covering our cough,” Dr. Millstine explains. “But it’s incredibly important when you’re a college student.”

So is finding ways to manage the college-level stress, which Dr. Millstine says can equal sickness.

“When you’re exposed to a virus and you’re under a lot of stress, you’re more likely to get sick than a person exposed to the same virus who’s not as stressed out,” adds Dr. Millstone.

And if your defense fails, and a cough or fever hits, take yourself out of the game until you recover.

Jul 12, 2019 · Mayo Clinic Minute: The trouble with fruit juice

That fruit juice in your refrigerator might not be as healthy as you think. Even when the label says 100% juice, there’s reason to limit how much juice gets into your glass.

“I put fruit juice, if it’s processed highly, in the same category as sugar-sweetened beverages,” says Dr. Donald Hensrud, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (1:00) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please “Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network.” Read the script.

Dr. Hensrud says young children should drink no more than 6 ounces of juice a day and older kids, just 8 ounces.

“That doesn’t seem like a lot, but there is a reason for that,” he adds.

The reason is concentrated, sugary calories that come in every serving.

“Even though something contains 100% fruit juice, it may be very processed and refined,” explains Dr. Hensrud. “So what ends up in the glass is not what came from the fruit itself. For example, apple juice: It’s processed very highly, and it’s basically sugar water without a lot of nutrients.”

Dr. Hensrud says orange juice with pulp offers a bit more nutrients, but eating an orange and drinking a glass of water is a healthier plan.

“It seems like we’re doing our children a favor by giving them fruit juice, says Dr. Hensrud. “In general, though, we need to limit all sources of juice because they’re extra calories.”