Mayo Clinic Q&A

From complex or serious conditions like cancer and heart disease to the latest news on research and wellness, host Dr. Halena Gazelka asks the questions and gets easy-to-understand answers from Mayo Clinic experts

Most Recent Episodes

Treatment options for pediatric brain tumors
September 22, 2021

Of the many different types of pediatric brain tumors some are noncancerous, or benign, and some are cancerous, or malignant. Treatment and chance of recovery, or prognosis, depend on the type of tumor, its location within the brain, whether it has spread, and your child's age and general health. Because new treatments and technologies are continually being developed, several options may be available at different points in treatment.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Angela Mattke, a Mayo Clinic pediatrician and host of Ask The Mayo Mom, will discuss treatment options for brain tumors in children with guests Dr. Soumen Khatua and Dr. Jonathan Schwartz — both Mayo Clinic pediatric neuro-oncologists — and Dr. David Daniels, a Mayo Clinic pediatric neurosurgeon. This conversation is part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

closeup of a medical person wearing gloves holding a COVID-19 vaccine syringe

FDA panel makes recommendations on COVID-19 booster shots
September 22, 2021

On Friday, Sept. 17, the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) advisory panel rejected a proposal to give Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine boosters to the general public. But the panel recommend boosters for people aged 65 and older — and for other high-risk groups — six months after the initial vaccination series. That includes health care workers. The recommendation will go before the FDA for final approval. 

FDA approval is just one step in determining whether booster shots will be made available. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will refine the recommendations for booster shots and provide guidance to health care providers, pharmacies and other COVID-19 vaccine providers. ACIP has scheduled a meeting for Sept. 22-23.

 "It's a bit of a complicated path," says Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. "But we're exercising caution before we proceed into boosters for everyone, and the reason for that is because we do our best to follow the science." The FDA panel requested more safety data on the use of boosters.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland discusses booster recommendations and other COVID-19 updates.

Asthma management planning can prevent asthma attacks
September 20, 2021

Asthma is a condition where your airways narrow and swell and may produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult, and trigger coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Asthma is one of the most common long-term diseases in children, but adults can have asthma, too. Symptoms of asthma include:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest tightness or pain.
  • Wheezing when exhaling, which is a common sign of asthma in children.
  • Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing.
  • Coughing or wheezing attacks worsened by a respiratory virus, such as a cold or the flu.

"People with asthma have an irritable, hyperresponsive airway," says Dr. John Costello, a consultant pulmonologist at Mayo Clinic Healthcare in London. "Many asthmatics will tell you that if they laugh, or if there's strong fumes from the back of a car or something like that, that will make them cough much more easily than a normal person."

For some people, asthma is just a minor nuisance. For others, it can be a major problem that interferes with daily activities and may lead to a life-threatening asthma attack. Maintaining good day-to-day asthma control is the key to keeping symptoms at bay and preventing asthma attacks.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Costello discusses how to manage asthma in adults.

normal, healthy bone marrow depicting erythroid and myeloid cells

Accurate diagnosis is key to treating lymphoma
September 17, 2021

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of the body's germ-fighting network. The lymphatic system includes the lymph nodes or glands, the spleen, the thymus gland, and bone marrow. 

While many types of lymphoma exist, the main subtypes are Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Knowing exactly which type of lymphoma you have is key to developing an effective treatment plan.

"The main problem with lymphoma is accurate diagnosis," says Dr. Jose Villasboas Bisneto, Mayo Clinic hematologist. "It is a rare cancer in proportion to the other cancers, so most cancer doctors will not see many lymphoma patients in any given month, or even a given year."

Tests used to diagnose lymphoma include imaging tests, such as PET, CT or MRI scans, as well as biopsies of the lymph nodes and bone marrow.

What treatment is best for a patient depends on the lymphoma type and its severity.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Villasboas Bisneto discusses the various types of lymphoma and how they are treated.

a white woman, a mother, wearing a mask and helping a young girl, perhaps her daughter, put on a mask during COVID-19 pandemic

Listener mailbag — COVID-19 questions answered
September 15, 2021

Each week, the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast shares the latest information on COVID-19. On today's episode, Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group, answers listeners' coronavirus questions. 

Dr. Poland discusses the mu variant, understanding breakthrough infections and the importance of flu vaccinations this fall. 

"The symptoms of COVID-19 and the symptoms of influenza overlap so much that it can be hard to distinguish one from another," says Dr. Poland. 

What can the public do to protect themselves this flu season? 

"Everybody aged 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine. And as we've talked about, get a COVID-19 vaccine whenever you are eligible, and wear a mask indoors in public."

What happens after a prostate cancer diagnosis?
September 13, 2021

After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men. One in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute.

While some types of prostate cancer grow slowly, and may need minimal or even no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.

So if you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Now what?

"It's very important to know the extent or stage of the cancer," says Dr. R. Jeffrey Karnes, a Mayo Clinic urologist and chair of the Division of Community Urology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Diagnosis and staging are done using tests, including ultrasound, MRI and biopsy.

Prostate cancer that's detected early — when it's still confined to the prostate gland — has the best chance for successful treatment. Prostate cancer treatment options depend on several factors, such as how fast the cancer is growing, whether it has spread, as well as the potential benefits or side effects of the treatment.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Karnes discusses treatment options for prostate cancer and the latest in clinical trials and research.

Treating birth defects before a baby is born
September 10, 2021

Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Before a baby is born, early intervention using fetal surgery can treat life-threatening birth defects and improve outcomes in some cases. 

Fetal surgeons at Mayo Clinic Children's Center treat many conditions, including: 

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Angela Mattke, a Mayo Clinic pediatrician and host of Ask The Mayo Mom, is joined by Dr. Mauro Schenone, a Mayo Clinic maternal fetal surgeon, to discuss advances in technology and treatments. Dr. Schenone is also the director of the Fetal Diagnostic and Intervention Center at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and chair of the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine.

a young Black, maybe Asian, child in the hospital with an IV, perhaps sick with cancer

Cancer is the leading disease-related cause of death in children
September 9, 2021

One in every 266 children and adolescents will be diagnosed with cancer by age 20, according to the American Cancer Society.

Sarcoma — the term for a group of cancers that begin in the bones and in the soft or connective tissues — is one of the more common types of childhood cancer. 

Fortunately, recent treatment advances have increased survival rates. Of children diagnosed with cancer, 84% now survive five years or more. One of the advances in treatment has been improvement in radiation therapy techniques and the use of proton beam therapy for treating pediatric cancers.

"Radiation therapy works very well for sarcomas," says Dr. Wendy Allen-Rhoades, a Mayo Clinic pediatric hematologist and oncologist. "And the difference between conventional radiation and proton therapy radiation is that our radiation oncologists are able to contour a little bit tighter with proton therapy. Therefore, the surrounding tissue that is normal is spared from some of the side effects. This is really important in children who are growing because we want them to be able to grow normally."

In addition to sparing healthy tissue from the effects of radiation, people who must undergo radiation therapy early in life are less likely to have long-term side effects and complications, such as secondary cancers, with proton beam therapy than with conventional radiation therapy.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Allen-Rhoades discusses pediatric sarcomas and the importance of funding for research and support of families dealing with pediatric cancer.

Onco-regenration — Restoring function after a soft tissue cancer diagnosis
September 3, 2021

Soft tissue sarcoma is a rare form of cancer that has typically been treated using limb salvage surgery combined with radiation therapy. While limb salvage surgery helps patients avoid amputation, patients are often left with substantial functional limitations.

Now advancements in microsurgery are making it possible to harness the body's ability to regenerate muscle strength after surgery to remove soft tissue sarcoma. Mayo Clinic orthopedic oncologists are teaming up with plastic surgeons in a procedure they've coined "onco-regeneration", with a goal of improving a patient’s function and quality of life after surgery. 

"Advancements are changing the way we approach patients," says Dr. Matthew Houdek, a Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon. "And a big part is the teamwork required to take care of these patients."

Orthopedic surgeons partner with plastic surgeons to deconstruct and reconstruct the tumor location. That includes removing and replacing muscles, nerves and the lymphatic system.

"Advancements in microsurgery techniques have made what we can repair and what we can restore much better," says Dr. Steven Moran, a Mayo Clinic plastic surgeon. "The latest technology now allows us to tension and insert the muscle directly back into the bone. That has been very favorable to restoring function, and it helps us get these patients back to doing what they want to do."

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Drs. Houdek and Moran discuss advances in treating soft tissue sarcoma.

medical illustration of COPD

Breathing easier with COPD
September 3, 2021

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is the third leading cause of death worldwide according to the World Health Organization. COPD is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs.

The main cause of COPD in developed countries is tobacco smoking. In the developing world, COPD often occurs in people exposed to fumes from burning fuel for cooking or heating in poorly ventilated homes. People with COPD are at increased risk of other diseases too, such as heart disease, lung cancer and a variety of other conditions. Although COPD is a progressive disease, it is also treatable. 

"If you catch it at an early phase, treatment may consist of helping the patient to stop smoking or taking the patient away from the polluted environment that may be contributing to the disease," says Dr. John Costello, a consultant pulmonologist at Mayo Clinic Healthcare in London. "For those with more advanced disease, long term rehabilitation programs have been very successful in centers that specialize in pulmonary disease."

As a part of rehabilitation, treatment for advanced COPD can include the use of medications, inhalers and oxygen therapy.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Costello discusses how COPD is diagnosed and the treatment options for COPD.