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

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.

a young Black woman, teacher sitting on classroom floor reading to school children, all wearing masks

Building a wall of immunity against COVID-19
November 3, 2021

In anticipation of more COVID-19 vaccine approvals this week, Dr. Elie Berbari, chair of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Mayo Clinic, says it's good news that younger children will now have more protection against COVID-19.

"It's important that we reach a very high level of vaccination rates to achieve kind of a wall of immunity that could prevent transmission and prevent us from these repeated peaks that we've been dealing with over the last year and a half during this pandemic," says Dr. Berbari. 

In this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Berbari also talks about the rare cases of myocarditis and how the Food and Drug Administration is monitoring those cases. Dr. Berbari also addresses additional COVID-19 vaccine doses for immunocompromised people, the importance of masking, even if vaccinated, and he answers a number of listener questions.

a medical illustration of stomach cancer

Using the immune system to treat stomach cancer
November 1, 2021

Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, can affect any part of the stomach. In most of the world, stomach cancers form in the main part of the stomach. But in the U.S., stomach cancer is more likely to affect the area where the esophagus meets the stomach. This area is called the gastroesophageal junction. 

Where the cancer occurs in the stomach is one factor doctors consider when determining treatment options. Treatment usually includes surgery to remove the stomach cancer. Other treatments may be recommended before and after surgery, including immunotherapy

"Over the past three years, we've incorporated immunotherapy into the treatment of stomach cancer. This type of therapy boosts the immune system to go after the cancer," says Dr. Lionel Kankeu Fonkoua, a Mayo Clinic medical oncologist. "Cancer cells are very smart and find ways to evade or put brakes on the immune system. Immunotherapy is designed to release those brakes and unleash the immune system to go after the cancer. And when that's effective, we've seen some dramatic and durable responses in some of these patients." 

November is Stomach Cancer Awareness Month. On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Kankeu Fonkoua discusses risk factors, the latest treatments and steps you can take to prevent stomach cancer.

Caring for transgender and gender-diverse children, teens
October 29, 2021

Transgender is an umbrella term used to describe the spectrum of gender identity and gender expression diversity. Gender identity is the internal sense of being male, female, neither or both. Gender expression — often an extension of gender identity — involves the expression of a person's gender identity through social roles, appearance and behaviors.

For parents, it can be challenging to know how to support a gender-nonconforming or transgender child.

Most children typically develop the ability to recognize and label stereotypical gender groups, such as girl, woman and feminine, as well as boy, man and masculine, between 18 and 24 months. In many cases, children will say how they feel, strongly identifying as a boy or girl — and sometimes — neither or both. While children might go through periods of insisting that they are the opposite gender of their birth sex, if they continue to do so, it was likely never a phase.

It is important to discuss your child's gender identity and gender expression with his or her health care provider to address the health concerns that transgender people face. The health care team also should include a counselor or therapist with training in transgender needs.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Aida Lteif, a Mayo Clinic pediatric endocrinologist; Nicole Imhof, a pediatric social worker; and Katherine Ley, a pediatric endocrinology nurse, discuss medical care for transgender children.

Additional resource: Trans Student Educational Resources

a Mayo Clinic medical staff person wearing gloves administering a COVID-19 vaccine in a white woman's arm

Understanding mix-and-match COVID-19 boosters
October 27, 2021

The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have made booster recommendations for all three COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S., including authorizing a mix-and-match option for booster shots from Johnson & Johnson (J&J), Moderna or Pfizer.

For people who received Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, booster vaccinations are recommended 6 months or more after finishing the initial two-dose series for those age 65 and older and for younger adults 18 and older who work or live in high-risk settings or have underlying medical conditions that increase their COVID-19 risk. 

For people who got the J&J COVID-19 vaccine, booster vaccinations are recommended for those 18 and older and who were vaccinated two or more months ago.

"What mix-and-match means is that regardless of what you got for your primary series, you could get any of the other three vaccines available for use in the U.S. as your booster if you're eligible for a booster," says Dr. Gregory Poland, head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group

So how do you know which booster vaccination to choose?

"All of the boosters will dramatically boost your antibody response," says Dr. Poland. "I would make the decision about a booster based on how did you respond to whatever you got originally? And are there any unique risk factors that you have?"

People who responded well to the first vaccine with minimal side effects can choose to get the same brand for their booster vaccination. But there are reasons someone might choose a different vaccine. For example, a younger man who initially got the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine might want a J&J booster, because the mRNA vaccines are linked with a slight risk of heart inflammation called myocarditis. And a woman under age 50 might prefer to get a Moderna or Pfizer booster, because the J&J vaccine is linked with a slightly higher risk of a rare blood clotting condition in younger women.

In this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland walks through the recent booster recommendations and the likely timeline for COVID-19 vaccine approval for kids ages 5 — 11.

three women hugging and consoling each other, crying in sadness and grief

Mental health toll of ongoing COVID-19 pandemic
October 25, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll in many ways, including affecting mental health.

Across the U.S., people have been living with a heightened level of stress for more than 18 months due to the ongoing pandemic. Nearly 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. say that worry and stress related to the threat of COVID-19 have played a negative role in their mental health, according to a recent survey.

"We think of just the wear and tear that the pandemic has had on all of us. We kind of think about it almost like an erosion effect over time, with the amount of stressors and different uncertainties that we've been going through," says Dr. Craig Sawchuk, chair of the Division of Integrated Behavioral Health at Mayo Clinic. 

"That wear and tear gets to us, and if there hasn't been an opportunity to do some more restorative things, then after a while, people may start to get a little bit more edgy, a little bit more irritable, a little less patient." 

Dr. Sawchuk explains that it's important to acknowledge the feelings of anger, frustration and fatigue, and then find strategies to better cope with those feelings. Relaxation exercises that can be done quickly and from anywhere may help you change your mindset.

"As emotions get cranked up, flexibility in our thinking and our ability to problem solve actually goes down," says Dr. Sawchuk. "This is true for all emotions — anger included. So relaxation-related exercises help us focus on things we can control."

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Sawchuk discusses strategies for managing your mental health, and he offers tips for navigating family gatherings during the holidays.

a medical staff person in a white lab coat holding a 3-D medical image graphic in his hand with the words colon cancer on the screen

Advancing colorectal cancer screening with AI
October 22, 2021

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide, accounting for almost 2 million new cancer cases each year, according to the World Health Organization

Colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer, typically affects older adults, although it can happen at any age.

Screening for colorectal cancer is important to identify precancerous polyps that could develop into cancer, and several screening options are available to patients. 

But which screening tool is right for you?

"The best screening tool is the one you're willing to get," says Dr. James East, a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic Healthcare in London. "There's no point in being set up for a colonoscopy if you're not willing to come for it. And there are a wide range of options now for bowel cancer screening — all of which provide substantial protection against bowel cancer."

Screening test options for colorectal cancer include:

  • Colonoscopy.
  • Stool DNA test.
  • Fecal immunochemical test. 
  • Virtual colonoscopy, or CT colonography.

While effective screening tools exist, research using artificial intelligence (AI) to develop better techniques to detect polyps is hoping to improve screening even further.

"I think the role of AI in endoscopy is huge. And it's it's coming to clinical care," says Dr. East. "This is really translating facial recognition technology, but instead of recognizing faces, the AI recognizes polyps at an astonishing rate during a live colonoscopy. This is really a game changer for us." 

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. East discusses advances in colorectal cancer screening.

COVID-19 research in Mayo Clinic Laboratories with researcher pouring liquids into a beaker

Changing COVID-19 recommendations means the science is working
October 20, 2021

As continuing research guides medical recommendations, it seems that there are COVID-19 updates released daily. These recommendations cover a range of topics, including whether COVID-19 booster vaccinations are necessary to whether COVID-19 vaccines can be mixed and matched.

"The fact that recommendations are changing is not evidence people don't know what they're doing," says Dr. Gregory Poland, head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. "It's evidence that they do know what they're doing and are paying close attention to new data that's coming along. Then they're adjusting recommendations based on the latest data."

Dr. Poland continues to urge people to get the latest COVID-19 news from credible sources. 

In this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland walks through the recent recommendations, corrects misperceptions and answers a number of listener questions.