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

a white or perhaps a Latina woman in a white t-shirt sitting on the edge of bed, holding her hand to her chest, out of concern, stress, worry, heart pain

Atrial fibrillation treatment improves quality of life for patients
June 14, 2021

Many people may be living with a serious heart condition and not know it. Because the signs and symptoms of atrial fibrillation can be vague, people often think they are simply out of shape or just getting older.

Atrial fibrillation, sometimes referred to as "a-fib", is an irregular and often rapid heartbeat that can increase the risk of strokes, heart failure and other cardiac problems. During atrial fibrillation, the heart's two upper chambers — the atria — beat chaotically and irregularly, and out of coordination with the two lower chambers — the ventricles. Atrial fibrillation symptoms often include heart palpitations and shortness of breath. 

Treatments for atrial fibrillation can include medications and other interventions that try to alter the heart's electrical system. 

"Patients really do feel tremendous improvement in their quality of life when we keep them in normal rhythm," says Dr. Christopher DeSimone, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist who specializes in cardiac electrophysiology. On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. DeSimone discusses symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of atrial fibrillation. 

Why discussing racism with children matters
June 11, 2021

Children are always watching and learning behaviors from those around them, and parents are usually a child's first role model. But when it comes to discussing racism with children, parents and caregivers may wonder how to begin the conversation about race and bias, and what is age-appropriate to discuss with their children. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these three strategies for helping children understand and deal with racial bias:

  • Talk to your childrenand acknowledge that racial differences and bias exist.
  • Confront your own biasand model how you want your children to respond to others who may be different than them. 
  • Encourage your children to challenge racial stereotypes and racial bias by being kind and compassionate when interacting with people of all racial, ethnic, and cultural groups.

This edition of the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, which focuses on the importance of discussing racism with children, features an #AsktheMayoMom episode hosted by Dr. Angela Mattke, a pediatrician at Mayo Clinic Children's Center. Joining Dr. Mattke is Dr. Nusheen Ammeenuddin, chair of Diversity and Inclusion for Mayo Clinic Health System and chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Council on Communications and Media.

A dangerous phase of the COVID-19 pandemic for those who are unvaccinated
June 9, 2021

If you've been vaccinated for COVID-19, you're able to go shopping, eat in restaurants and travel on airplanes without the same worry of becoming infected with COVID-19 that existed just months ago. But for those who are unvaccinated, getting infected with COVID-19 — even with just minor symptoms — should be a concern, according to Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group.

"For those who have been vaccinated, life is resuming back to a sense of normalcy," says Dr. Poland. "But for the unvaccinated, they now live in a dangerous phase of the pandemic, where we're seeing circulating variants that are much more transmissible and may cause worse cases of the disease than what happened last year at this time. I think the people who are unvaccinated may not realize that."

In this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland also offers information on more COVID-19 studies underway and he talks about COVID-19 vaccine research protocols that will be able to help scientists with other vaccine research, such as HIV vaccine research. Also, he answers listener questions, such as, "Does someone who has already been infected with COVID-19, really need to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or would just a booster be needed?"

a Caucasian woman sitting on a couch, wearing a headscarf, perhaps a cancer patient having had chemotherapy, smiling and talking to a young African American or Latino boy, maybe her son

Cancer survivorship needs are unique for each survivor
June 7, 2021

June is National Cancer Survivor Month, and National Cancer Survivors Day was recognized on Sunday, June 6. Both events recognize and celebrate the millions of adults and children in the United States who have experienced a cancer diagnosis.

According to the National Cancer Institute, there are nearly 17 million cancer survivors in the U.S. Each one experiences cancer survivorship differently. 

Sometimes cancer survivorship means a cure. Sometimes it means living with the cancer. In other cases, survivorship involves a new normal that requires adapting to the permanent side effects of cancer treatment. Cancer survivorship is as unique as each cancer survivor.

On this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Kathryn Ruddy, associate director of Patient and Community Education and co-chair of the Symptom Control/Survivorship Cross-Disciplinary Group at Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, discusses the needs and concerns of cancer survivors of all ages.

Study finds patients highly satisfied with telehealth
June 4, 2021

The use of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic rose dramatically across the nation, including at Mayo Clinic. Telehealth has provided safe, convenient access to health care for people who needed to stay home to follow guidelines for social distancing and quarantines. 

Recent studies conducted by the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition found that patients and providers are highly satisfied with digital health care as a way to deliver care. 

The results of the patient survey mirrored the results of the provider survey released last fall. Of the 2,007 patients across the U.S. who responded to the survey, 79% indicated that they were satisfied with their telehealth visit and 73% expect to continue with telehealth care in the future.  

“The experience with telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic has opened everyone’s eyes as the potential to deliver healthcare in much more safe and convenient ways," says Dr. Steve Ommen, medical director of Experience Products for Mayo Clinic's Center for Digital Health. "I think that years from now, we will point to 2020 as the year that the potential of digital care delivery became a reality, as long as the regulatory and reimbursement environment is conducive to its growth."

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Ommen discusses how telehealth is becoming part of the new normal in health care.

Cerebrospinal fluid leaks are commonly misdiagnosed
June 2, 2021

Cerebrospinal fluid is the clear fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. It cushions the brain and spinal cord from injury, delivers nutrients and acts as a waste removal system for the brain. 

A cerebrospinal fluid leak occurs when fluid escapes through a small tear or hole in the outermost layer of tissue that surrounds the brain or the spinal cord. Leaks can occur in the skull or at any point along the spinal column. 

Because headache is a common symptom, patients are often misdiagnosed or mistreated for migraines.

"About 85% of patients with a cerebrospinal fluid leak at the level of the spine will have an orthostatic headache — one that gets worse when they stand up and better when they lie down," says Dr. Jeremy Cutsforth-Gregory, a Mayo Clinic neurologist.

Once properly diagnosed, a blood patch procedure is often an effective treatment for spinal cerebrospinal fluid leaks. The patient's own blood is injected into the spinal canal, and the blood clot that forms can stop the leak. In other patients, surgery or a novel procedure called paraspinal vein embolization may be more appropriate.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Cutsforth-Gregory discusses diagnosing and treating spinal cerebrospinal fluid leaks.

a young man playing basketball outside

Sports cardiology helps patients get back in the game
May 28, 2021

Regular activity is good for the heart, but patients with heart conditions may wonder if it is safe to exercise. Mayo Clinic's Sports Cardiology Clinic is a specialty clinic where a team of cardiologists, exercise physiologists, and other specialists evaluate and treat heart conditions with a goal of keeping athletes active in sports. 

But who could benefit from sports cardiology?

"We're trying to target three different types of patients," says Dr. Brian Shapiro, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist. "Of course, that elite athlete, whether it be professional, collegiate or even high school, as we're able to see patients from 15 years and older. Second, the weekend warriors — people who want to get out there and start running again, or biking, doing triathlons and things of this nature. And, finally, those patients who may actually have cardiac disease and have never worked out." 

The Sports Cardiology Clinic also can advise patients how to improve training and performance. The evaluation involves a stress test. 

"A cardiopulmonary stress test is the cornerstone of the evaluation we will do with these patients," says Dr. Bryan Taylor, a Mayo Clinic cardiopulmonary exercise physiologist. "We are trying to do two things. One, we're trying to understand the baseline level of fitness of the overall heart and lung and musculoskeletal fitness the person has. But the stress test is also a first sweep where potential issues might be identified. And we can understand if exercise is limited, is it due to a heart condition or a lung condition or something else?" 

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Shapiro and Dr. Taylor discuss sports cardiology evaluation, monitoring and treatment options.

Researcher Michael Barry, Ph.D., in a lab looking at cut pieces of DNA in a blue light to see if they are the correct size of the viral genes the team wants to use.

Dissecting COVID-19 research and putting data in perspective
May 26, 2021

The number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. continues to decline. However, cases of COVID-19 are increasing in younger populations. 

"It's becoming a childhood disease," says Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. "Children have composed over 16,000 hospitalizations for COVID-19 and about 300 have died."

Meanwhile, each day brings fresh research news, including updates on possible side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines. 

"We're collecting information as we go and have data on about 4.5 million people now," says Dr. Poland. "That's larger than we would have for any other vaccine." 

In this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland expands on these latest news items and puts the data in perspective. He also discusses vaccination rates, the possibility of mixing and matching vaccines for COVID-19 boosters, vaccination rates, and much more.

Detecting and treating thoracic aortic aneurysms
May 24, 2021

thoracic aortic aneurysm is a weakened area in the major blood vessel that feeds blood to the body. When the aorta is weak, blood pushing against the vessel wall can cause it to bulge like a balloon. This is called an aneurysm. Depending on the cause, size and growth rate, your thoracic aortic aneurysm treatment options can vary.

Thoracic aortic aneurysms often grow slowly and usually without symptoms, making them difficult to detect. Thoracic aortic aneurysms are often found during routine medical tests, such as a chest X-ray, CT scan or ultrasound of the heart, sometimes ordered for a different reason.

"Most of the time, a thoracic aortic aneurysm is discovered incidentally," says Dr. Gabor Bagameri, a Mayo Clinic cardiovascular surgeon. "When you find out you have an enlarged aorta, it's important to get connected to cardiology and a cardiac surgeon who has expertise and has treated a high volume of patients."

Ask the Mayo Mom episode on congenital ear anomalies
May 21, 2021

Congenital ear anomalies or malformations are birth defects that affect the shape and position of the ear. Common anomalies include microtia, or small ears; prominent ears; or a missing ear. These malformations are not only cosmetic but also they can affect the function of the ear. Otoplasty is a surgical procedure to change the shape, position or size of the ears.

This edition of the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast features an #AsktheMayoMom episode hosted by Dr. Angela Mattke, a pediatrician at Mayo Clinic Children's Center. Joining Dr. Mattke to discuss congenital ear anomalies is Dr. Waleed Gibreel, a Mayo Clinic craniofacial and pediatric plastic surgeon.