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

an older white woman with gray hair sitting alone on a bed, looking out a window and thinking

Caregiving for someone with Alzheimer’s disease
November 29, 2021

November is Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness of the disease while recognizing the important work that caregivers do when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's or dementia

Approximately 5.8 million people in the U.S. age 65 and older live with Alzheimer's disease. Of those, 80% are 75 and older. Of the approximately 50 million people worldwide with dementia, between 60% and 70% are estimated to have Alzheimer's disease.

For those living with Alzheimer's and their caregivers, common questions include: 

  • When it comes to memory, what is typical aging? 
  • What is the difference between Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia? 
  • How can you keep your brain healthy? 

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Jonathan Graff-Radford, a behavioral neurologist at Mayo Clinic, and Angela Lunde, an investigator in Mayo Clinic's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center — both co-authors of the second edition of "Mayo Clinic on Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias: A Guide for People With Dementia and Those Who Care for Them" — share stories of those living with dementia and offer practical advice for caregivers.

Justin’s journey and silver linings
November 24, 2021

At the age of 15, Justin Vigile was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a genetic condition that causes the muscles of the heart to thicken, making it difficult for the heart to pump blood. Vigile had a cardiac defibrillator placed, but over time, his heart began to fail. 

When looking for answers and help, Vigile and his family turned to Mayo Clinic. Thanks to science, research and an innovative procedure performed by the man who developed it, Justin got his life back. 

At Mayo, Dr. Hartzell Schaff, a cardiovascular surgeon, gave Vigile an alternative to heart transplant in the form of apical myectomy, a surgical procedure to relieve symptoms caused by the thickening of muscle in the apex of his heart. 

It's a procedure that Dr. Schaff developed at Mayo Clinic in 1996. Vigile feels grateful for the surgery and the surgeon. 

"Dr. Schaff changed my life, which is obvious. But it also changed the lives of my friends and family. I was able to meet the woman that I fell in love with. I've been able to pursue my dreams." Those dreams include writing music for NFL films and becoming a podcaster.

Now, almost 10 years later, Vigile and Dr. Schaff reunite on the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast. Also on the program, Justin's podcast partner, Darrell Campbell, joins the conversation to talk about the Everyman Podcast and how they've found silver linings along the way.

The important role of hospice care
November 22, 2021

Ashley Evenson lived with a lifelong illness known as Cockayne syndrome that prematurely aged her. Ashley lived with her disease for 32 years before passing away in 2019.

Ashley received palliative and hospice care over the course of her life, and Ashley's mom, Lynn Evenson, wants people to know about the benefits of hospice care.

"To keep Ashley’s memory alive, I want to tell her story," says Evenson. "And I want to make it open to people to understand and learn what hospice is really about and how it can make a big difference — not just for the patient but for the caregiver, as well."

People are often confused about the difference between palliative care and hospice care. Palliative care is for anyone who has been diagnosed with a chronic illness. When a cure is not possible, a shift to hospice care can offer supportive measures for the patient and the family.

And an early referral to hospice can help everyone involved. 

"Hospice can provide so much care and comfort in all aspects of the end of life experience for both the patient and the family, says Jennifer Larson LaRue, a Mayo Clinic psychotherapist. "So it helps that very difficult, painful time go more smoothly, I think."

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, a time to recognize the important work these programs do to help patients and their families when a cure is not possible. 

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Larson LaRue joins Evenson, who shares her family's journey through illness and their wish to help educate others about the advantages of hospice care.

Ask the Mayo Mom: Spinal anesthesia has advantages for some pediatric surgeries
November 19. 2021

When a baby needs surgery, parents may be worried about how general anesthesia will affect their child. In place of general anesthesia, Mayo Clinic is using spinal anesthesia in some pediatric urology surgeries. 

The advantages of spinal anesthesia include a less time in the operating room and a quicker postop recovery. And since children are never fully sedated, they can feed or eat as soon as they return to the recovery room.

Before surgery, numbing cream is used and preop medication is delivered to the child through the nose. Spinal anesthesia is given using a needle into the patient’s back. This numbs and blocks movement below the belly button. 

Because spinal anesthesia only lasts no more than two hours, it is being used for shorter urologic procedures. During the surgery, the child's oxygen, temperature and blood pressure are monitored closely.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Candace Granberg, a pediatric urologist and surgeon-in-chief of Mayo Clinic Children's Center, and Dr. Dawit Haile, chair of the Division of Pediatric Anesthesia at Mayo Clinic, discuss spinal anesthesia for pediatric urologic surgeries.

a multi-generational family with grandparents and children gathered at the dinner table for a turkey dinner at the holidays

Travel trends and colder temperatures could mean a COVID-19 holiday surge
November 17, 2021

Cold weather, increased travel, waning immunity and the potential for new variants may serve up the perfect recipe for a holiday COVID-19 surge, according to Dr. Gregory Poland, head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group.  

"I have consistently said what's very likely to happen as we get to the cooler weather and see the trends in travel is that we will have another surge," says Dr. Poland. "We're in this unusual situation where the pandemic is actually getting worse because humans don't want to believe that the pandemic is just as important now as it was a year ago."

In this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland answers several listener questions and talks more about being vigilant against COVID-19 as the U.S. heads into a second winter with this coronavirus. He also addresses the recent news that wild deer have shown evidence of COVID-19 infection and what that might mean in the battle to eliminate the disease. 

Living as a prostate cancer survivor
November 15, 2021

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men, but thanks to improvements in detection and treatment, the likelihood of surviving the diagnosis is good. Both the five-year and the 10-year survival rates for all stages of prostate cancer are 98%, according to the American Cancer Society. As a result, there more than 3.1 million men in the U.S. have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point. 

Living after a cancer diagnosis is often called "survivorship." The survivorship experience is different for every cancer survivor, but it's possible to predict some of what the survivor might experience based on the type of cancer. For example, both prostate cancer and its treatment can cause urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction.

"I think survivorship is just a critical issue in prostate cancer management," says Dr. Matthew Tollefson, a Mayo Clinic urologist. "The location of the prostate is a factor, so many men are concerned about urinary function and sexual function, and to some extent bowel function, because these are all in the the general region of the prostate." 

After treatment, men may be hesitant to discuss their side effects or be self-conscious about sharing their feelings and worries. Health care providers can help.

"It's absolutely critical to have that discussion with your doctor, says Dr. Tollefson. "We have effective treatments to manage almost all the side effects that can come up, whether they be issues with body composition, or sexual function or urinary control. It's important to understand that that these are common things and recognize that your physician has likely heard this from many people before and really is well-equipped to help manage and get through some of the issues that that do arise."

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Tollefson discusses what men can expect after treatment for prostate cancer and how they can improve their quality of life going forward.

Entering the digital front door to a better health care experience
November 12, 2021

Innovation in health care is being driven by technology and data. At Mayo Clinic, the Center for Digital Health is the hub for this digital transformation. 

"The Center for Digital Health has the vision of bringing Mayo Clinic to a global community so that we can deliver Mayo Clinic anywhere in a manner that is simple," says Dr. Bradley Leibovich, medical director for Mayo Clinic's Center for Digital Health.

Current projects at the Center for Digital Health include developing a digital front door and improved consumer experience for patients, expanding virtual care, and transforming health care delivery through data and analytics.

One example is Mayo Clinic's advanced care a home program, which provides comprehensive care to patients in the comfort of their own homes. Partnering with Medically Home, technology-enabled services company, some patients with conditions previously managed in a hospital now have the option to transition to a home setting for care and recovery services. 

"This enables people who traditionally would need to be in the hospital for a serious condition to stay in their home, having nurses and physicians checking on them via technology, and having data streamed to those providers from their home," explains Dr. Leibovich. "It allows people to stay in their homes more, with their families more. It will enable them to continue working more. It will cure them faster. It will do so with less expense, less frustration. And everybody benefits if we can accomplish that."

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Leibovich discusses work that is underway at Mayo Clinic's Center for Digital Health to improve the patient's health care experience.

COVID-19 infection and the heart
November 10, 2021

Although COVID-19 has been seen as a disease that primarily affects the lungs, it can affect other organs, including the heart. 

Organ damage can lead to health complications that linger after being infected with COVID-19. People with heart disease are at an increased risk of more severe complications from COVID-19, but anyone infected with COVID-19 could be at risk for heart problems. 

"Not only have we learned that COVID-19 can cause cardiac injury through multiple mechanisms, but the virus in rare cases, particularly in young males, can cause myocarditis, a specific form of cardiac injury," says Dr. Leslie Cooper, chair of the Department ofCardiology at Mayo Clinic in Florida. 

Many people who are infected with COVID-19 experience shortness of breath, which could be a sign of heart complications and needs further investigation. 

"The illness itself leads to deconditioning because you're not as active you normally are," explains Dr. Cooper. "So going back to activity take time." 

It's hard for the individual to tell which is the cause of their symptoms. Is it the heart, the lungs or deconditioning? I would recommend seeing a medical provider if you've still got symptoms. We can sort that out with generally noninvasive and simple testing," says Dr. Cooper.

While there is a slight risk of myocarditis as a temporary side effect of vaccination for COVID-19, particularly in young males, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends vaccination for everyone 5 and up.

Dr. Cooper agrees.

"The likelihood of a bad thing happening — a hospitalization or dying from the virus itself — is greater with the virus than it is with a vaccine in every case, every analysis, in every study done."

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Cooper discusses COVID-19 infection and the heart.

Mayo Clinic lung transplant surgery in operating room

Early referrals to transplant can help lung disease patients
November 5, 2021

Unhealthy or damaged lungs can make it difficult for the body to get the oxygen it needs to survive. A variety of diseases or conditions can damage the lungs and hinder their ability to function effectively. When lung disease doesn't respond to medical therapy, a lung transplant may be needed. 

A lung transplant is a surgical procedure to replace a diseased or failing lung with a healthy lung, usually from a deceased donor. Depending on your medical condition, a lung transplant may involve replacing one or both of your lungs. In some situations, the lungs may be transplanted along with a donor heart. 

For patients with diseases that damage the lungs, an early referral to a transplant center is an important step.

"If you have a disease that you think could merit or benefit from lung transplant, it's extremely important to talk to your physician early in the process," says Dr. Tathagat Narula, a Mayo Clinic transplant medicine physician. "The physician can refer you to a transplant center, where you can receive a complete evaluation. There's nothing wrong in getting established with a transplant center relatively early in the process of your lung disease. " 

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Narula discusses evaluation for lung transplant and research working to make more lungs available to those on the transplant waitlist.

a young mother talking with a child, comforting or disciplining her

Healthy ways to discipline children
November 5, 2021

Child health experts condemn the use of violence in any form, but some people still use corporal punishment, such as spanking, as a way to discipline their children. Any corporal punishment can leave emotional scars. Parental behaviors that cause pain, physical injury or emotional trauma — even when done in the name of discipline — could be child abuse.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends healthy forms of discipline, such as positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviors, limit setting, redirecting, and setting future expectations. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents not span, hit, slap, threaten, insult, humiliate, or shame children.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, pediatrician and #AsktheMayoMom host Dr. Angela Mattke discusses positive ways to discipline your child with Dr. Chris Derauf, a Mayo Clinic pediatrician, and Dr. Arne Graff, a Mayo Clinic family medicine physician, who both specialize in child abuse at the Mayo Center for Safe and Healthy Children and Adolescents.