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

Diet and nutrition help cancer survivors return to good health
December 6, 2021

After cancer treatment, cancer survivors are eager to return to good health. The right diet and nutrition can play a big role in improving long-term health so cancer survivors can enjoy the years ahead.

Diet and nutrition recommendations for cancer survivors are no different from the recommendations for anyone who wants to improve their health: Eat a balanced diet with an emphasis on vegetables, fruits and whole grains; drink alcohol moderately, if at all; and maintain a healthy weight.

"Both the American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research recommend the same exact diet for cancer survivors that we recommend for cancer prevention," says Dr. Dawn Mussallem, a Mayo Clinic hematologist and oncologist. "A low fat-diet is recommended. That's a predominantly whole food, plant-based diet that is rich with vegetables; whole grains; colorful fruits; and things like beans, lentils, seeds and nuts. This is really the essential diet that's good for all health and health-related diseases, not just cancer." 

Maintaining a healthy weight is important to overall health, but some cancer survivors may struggle to maintain weight during and after treatment due to nausea or lack of appetite.

"For underweight patients, it is very important that they work with a dietician," says Dr. Mussallem. "These patients need healthy, high calorie-dense foods and they may need to eat smaller portions throughout the day."

Healing from cleft lip and cleft palate
December 3, 2021

Having a baby born with a cleft can be upsetting, but cleft lip and cleft palate are among the most common birth defects, and both can be corrected.

Cleft lip and cleft palate are openings or splits in the upper lip; the roof of the mouth, or palate; or both. Cleft lip and cleft palate result when facial structures that are developing in an unborn baby don't close completely.

Treatment involves surgery or a series of surgeries to repair the defect and therapies to improve any related conditions. Treatment seeks to improve the child's ability to eat, speak and hear normally, and achieve a normal facial appearance.

On this edition of the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Angela Mattke, a Mayo Clinic pediatrician and host of "Ask the Mayo Mom", discusses cleft lip and cleft palate with three Mayo Clinic Children’s Center experts: Dr. Samir Mardini, chair of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery; Dr. Shelagh Cofer, a pediatric otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon; and Dr. Waleed Gibreel, a craniofacial and pediatric plastic surgeon. 

a Mayo Clinic medical staff person, a white woman, administering a COVID-19 vaccine to a Black man, both wearing masks in a vaccine clinic

Boosters reduce vulnerability to COVID-19 variants
December 1, 2021

Omicron, a new COVID-19 variant of concern, has been detected in all regions of the world, including North America. While research and clinical observations on the new strain are underway, it is not yet known what impact, if any, omicron will have on the immune response, transmissibility, or specific COVID-19 treatments.

The emergence of omicron is a reminder to take important steps to protect yourself against COVID-19.

"The answer is masking and boosters," says Dr. Gregory Poland, head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group

Dr. Poland is encouraged by vaccine booster rates in the U.S. "In a relatively short period of time, about 36% of adults who are eligible have indeed gotten a booster," says Dr. Poland. "There's plenty of vaccine available. So in the strongest possible terms, I would recommend getting that booster."

Adults who are six months past completing their initial Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination series are eligible to receive a booster dose, as are adults who are two months past completing their initial dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland discusses the omicron variant and COVID-19 boosters, and he answers some listener questions.

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.