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

closeup of young white or perhaps Asian woman touching her neck near her throat, maybe a goiter, thyroid disease

Overtreating an underactive thyroid
Aug. 6, 2021

The thyroid gland creates and produces hormones that play a role in many systems throughout the body. When your thyroid makes too much or too little of these important hormones, it’s called a thyroid disease.

And thyroid disease is common.

"We know that about 10% of people have some degree of thyroid dysfunction," says Dr. Juan Brito Campana, a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist. 

There are several different types of thyroid disease, including hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid; hypothyroidism or under active thyroid; and Hashimoto’s disease, where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid disease. Treatment for hypothyroidism involves daily use of levothyroxine, a synthetic thyroid hormone that restores adequate hormone levels.

Levothyroxine is one of the most common prescription drugs in the U.S., but a new study by Mayo Clinic researchers suggests it is significantly overused in people with mild hypothyroidism or no apparent thyroid dysfunction. These results were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Brito Campana discusses diagnosis and treatment for thyroid disease, and what the research on the overuse of levothyroxine means for patients.

a Mayo Clinic medical staff person, a young, perhaps Asian woman, in PPE and assisting a COVID-19 patient in bed and monitoring her vital signs

The COVID-19 delta variant has changed everything

Aug. 4, 2021

A fourth COVID-19 surge is blanketing the U.S., and the delta variant is the culprit.

"Where did this delta variant come from? It came from unvaccinated people getting infected in large numbers allowing the virus to continue mutating," says Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group.

In the past, a person with COVID-19 might infect two to four people. But with the delta variant, one person can infect nine people, according to Dr. Poland. He says if you want to protect yourself and your family, wear a mask, especially indoors, and get vaccinated with an appropriate series of one of the COVID-19 vaccines.

"These are the most studied vaccines in the history of the world," Dr. Poland emphasizes. "There have never been this many people who have received this many doses of vaccines during this amount of time with as much scrutiny as these COVID-19 vaccines have had." 

In this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland answers questions about a person's waning immunity and the likelihood of COVID-19 booster shots. He also explains the two phases of immunity and goes into detail about the extensive Federal Drug Administration license approval process for COVID-19 vaccines.

blue background infographic lung cancer screening

Who should be screened for lung cancer?
Aug. 2, 2021

World Lung Cancer Day was recognized on August 1, to raise awareness about the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Lung cancer accounts for 12% of new cancer cases annually in the U.S., and more than 21% of all cancer deaths this year will be attributable to lung cancer, according to National Cancer Institute estimates. 

People who smoke have the greatest risk of developing lung cancer, but it can occur in people who don't smoke, as well. One of the challenges is that lung cancer is often diagnosed at an advanced stage.

"Unfortunately, when tumors grow within our lungs, it's not something that our bodies can sense or feel," says Dr. Aaron Mansfield, a Mayo Clinic medical oncologist. "So we miss it at its earliest stages, unless we're doing screening. For more than half the patients, lung cancer presents when it is already metastatic."

Research has shown that lung cancer screening can detect cancer at an earlier stage and reduce the risk of dying from lung cancer. 

"Right now, this screening is recommended for people who are at higher risk based on their age and smoking history," says Dr. Mansfield.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Mansfield, discusses screening, diagnosis and treatment for lung cancer.

Managing asthma in children
July 30, 2021

In childhood asthma, the lungs and airways become easily inflamed when exposed to certain triggers, such as inhaling pollen or catching a cold or other respiratory infection. Childhood asthma can cause bothersome daily symptoms that interfere with play, sports, school and sleep. In some children, unmanaged asthma can cause dangerous asthma attacks.

Childhood asthma isn't a different disease from asthma in adults, but children face unique challenges. The condition is a leading cause of emergency department visits, hospitalizations and missed school days. 

The right treatment can keep symptoms under control and prevent damage to growing lungs.

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. Manuel Arteta, a Mayo Clinic pediatric pulmonologist, to discuss managing asthma in children.

a large crowd of people on a busy city street

Stopping the spiral of the COVID-19 delta variant
July 28, 2021

Transmission of the COVID-19 delta variant is increasing.

"We're in this constant spiral, right now,” says Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group.

“The delta variant is so highly contagious,” he says. “The number of delta viral particles in the upper respiratory system is reportedly 1,000 times higher than with the original COVID-19 virus. If we can't find ways to get people vaccinated, we are going to be in a world of hurt. And I don't say that to be alarmist. I say it to be a realist, based on what’s happening right in front of us.”

But Dr. Poland says the spiral can be stopped by getting higher rates of immunization. 

"Getting a COVID-19 vaccine will prevent the development of worse and worse variants. It will prevent severe cases of hospitalization and death, even in the face of a variant,” he says. "The alternative is to lose another 600,000-plus Americans. Only this time it will, unfortunately, involve younger people."

Dr. Poland explains further, "Every time somebody gets infected with the delta variant, there's the opportunity for that virus to mutate and transmit to other people," says Dr. Poland. "This means that immunization rates to control herd immunity will probably have to be in the 85% to 95% range."

In this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland continues to talk about the delta variant, breakthrough infections, booster shots and much more.

a microscopic slide of glioblastoma brain cancer cells

Making progress in treating glioblastoma
July 26, 2021

When it comes to malignant tumors in the brain and spinal cord, glioblastoma is the most common. Glioblastoma is an aggressive form of cancer that forms from cells called astrocytes in the brain or the spinal cord. Glioblastoma can occur at any age, but it's more common in older adults. It can cause worsening headaches, nausea, vomiting and seizures. 

Glioblastoma can be difficult to treat. Current treatments include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, but thanks to research and clinical trials, new therapies are being developed.

"We're coming together as a community to treat this," says Dr. Wendy Sherman, a Mayo Clinic neurologist. "We're getting more patients on trial and we're being smarter about our trials. It's an exciting time for our field, and I'm very hopeful that we're going to make progress on this."

A cure is often not possible, but disease management and treatment may slow progression of the cancer and decrease the side effects.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Sherman discusses glioblastoma diagnosis, treatment, and research.

older white man sitting on a couch with his iPad during a telemedicine conference with a doctor

Telemedicine before and after orthopedic surgery
July 23, 2021

In health care, one of the biggest changes during the COVID-19 pandemic was the expansion of telemedicine. Virtual visits have been used in many specialties, including orthopedics and orthopedic surgery. While the use telemedicine escalated out of necessity during the pandemic, Dr. Shawn O’Driscoll, a Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon, believes its use will continue to be used going forward. 

"I think that the advantages to patients are really going to be the driving forces behind this," says Dr. O'Driscoll. "I think the key advantages are those that relate to access, convenience and cost."

While orthopedic surgery still requires in person appointments, telemedicine is beneficial for these patients before and after the operation.

"I've been very impressed with the ability to assess patients properly, even new patients, through telemedicine," says Dr. Joaquin Sanchez-Sotelo. a Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon. "When they come for surgery, they've already been evaluated, and there are no surprises. And after surgery, they can go home and follow-up care can be done virtually." 

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Drs. O'Driscoll and Sanchez-Sotelo discuss how telemedicine is helping orthopedics reach patients in new ways.

a middle-aged white women with red hair and glasses on a laptop at home or an office, with green plants near a window

Tips to stay healthy while working from home
July 21, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to readjust in many ways, including some companies shifting to remote work. Working from a home office has its benefits, but it also comes with quite a few challenges. Virtual offices mean added screen time which can lead to eye strain, ear problems and too much time sitting in one place. 

Living and working in the same space also can lead to challenges with setting boundaries and having an appropriate office space within the home.

"I think it's really important that if you are working from home, that you have office time and family time as separated as you can have," says Dr. Clayton Cowl, chair of the Division of Preventative, Occupational and Aerospace Medicine at Mayo Clinic. "And your home office needs to be a room — or at least a part of a room — where it's quiet, the light is appropriate, there's adequate ventilation, and it's set up ergonomically for you."

Occupational medicine is a specialty focused on helping workers stay at work and return to work.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Cowl, and Dr. Laura Breeher, a Mayo Clinic occupational medicine specialist, discuss tips and tricks for staying healthy while working from home.

medical illustration/animation of a VAD ventricular assist device for the heart

Ventricular assist devices aid heart failure patients
July 19, 2021

ventricular assist device, also known as a VAD, is an implantable mechanical pump that helps pump blood from the lower chambers of your heart, or ventricles, to the rest of your body. Although this device can be placed in the left, right or both ventricles of your heart, it is most frequently used in the left ventricle. When placed in the left ventricle it is called a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD.

A ventricular assist device is used in people who have weakened hearts or heart failure. A VAD may be implanted while the patient waits for a heart transplant or is working to get his or her heart strong enough to effectively pump blood on its own.

"Patients with end-stage heart failure may be out of breath brushing their teeth or sitting in the recliner watching TV," says Dr. John Stulak, a Mayo Clinic cardiovascular surgeon. "When a patient ends up having symptoms at rest, that's the telltale sign that this is end-stage heart failure. What the LVAD does is help the left side of the heart pump and decongest the heart and get all the blood moving forward again. The VAD helps patients get back to basically doing everything they want to do."

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Stulak discusses technological advances in ventricular assist devices and how the therapy is underused.

On the verge of predicted COVID-19 surge with delta variant
July 15, 2021

The delta variant is being blamed for hot spots in the U.S. where cases of COVID-19 are on the rise. These hot spots account for most cases in the U.S. They are also the geographical areas that tend to have the lowest vaccination rates. 

"It's no surprise that the two go together," says Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group.

"This (delta variant) is the bad actor that we predicted it would be," adds Dr. Poland. "Our seven-day average is getting up to 19,000 cases a day in the U.S. We were down to 3,000. So we're starting to see, just as we predicted, a surge as people took masks off and as restrictions were lifted before we had achieved high rates of immunization."

In this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland expands on how the highly transmissible delta variant continues to spread. He also talks about the possibility of COVID-19 vaccine boosters, explains how the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System works, and much more as he answers listener questions.