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

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.

Guidelines and nuances of wearing a face mask
May 19, 2021

Recent COVID-19 masking guidelines announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, continue to generate a public conversation.

"The decision about masking needs to be nuanced," says Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. "Wearing a mask should be based on the risk of infection, the percentage of the population vaccinated, a person's own immune system, and then the role of vaccine variants with the durability of our immune response."

In this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland discusses masking guidelines in further detail. Also, he offers an update on COVID-19 vaccine research for children, and he shares positive news about the decreasing numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

a medical illustration of bladder cancer

Bladder cancer patients require ongoing surveillance
May 17, 2021

Bladder cancer is a common type of cancer that begins in the cells of the bladder, a hollow muscular organ in the lower abdomen that stores urine. Bladder cancer signs and symptoms can include blood in the urine, frequent or painful urination, and back pain. 

"The vast majority of bladder cancer patients are diagnosed with cancer that's not imminently life-threatening, but they tend to be aggressive," says Dr. Mark Tyson II, a Mayo Clinic urologic surgeon. "So bladder cancers, even if they're not life-threatening when they're first diagnosed, tend to recur."

For this reason, people with bladder cancer typically need follow-up tests for years after treatment to look for recurrence of their cancer. 

May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month. On this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Tyson discusses bladder cancer diagnosis, staging and treatment.

Addressing equity in clinical trials
May 14, 2021

Like many organizations, Mayo Clinic is working to address disparities and equity in health care. This work is important not only in the clinic setting, but also in addressing equity issues in medical research and clinical trials. 

Clinical trials are research studies used to determine whether an intervention, such as a drug, device or other therapy, is safe and effective for people. People in racial and ethnic minority groups are underrepresented in clinical trials. 

"That's a real concern and a real issue because you want to make sure that the results of the clinical trial are applicable to the whole population," says Dr. Gerardo Colon-Otero, a Mayo Clinic oncologist and medical director for the Center for Health Equity and Community Engagement Research at Mayo Clinic in Florida. 

While efforts are underway at Mayo Clinic to promote inclusive participation in clinical trials for all populations, Sonya Goins, a Mayo Clinic patient who has participated in clinical trials, says that more work needs to be done to reach members of underserved groups and help them understand the benefits of participating in clinical trials. 

"Firstly, when it comes to diverse communities, people need to be aware that these studies are out there, and that they give you hope," says Goins. "That's the reason why I do them. It's because they give me hope."

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Colon-Otero and Goins join host Dr. Halena Gazelka for a conversation about equity in research and clinical trials.

Real-world effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines
May 12, 2022

Children 12–15 are now eligible to receive Pfizer's COVID-19vaccine, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use approval. 

And there is other COVID-19 news.

"This is the first week we have not had an increase in COVID-19 cases in any U.S. state, and in 33 of those states, there was a decrease last week," says Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. "This has not happened on any consistent basis for every U.S. state since the start of this pandemic." 

In this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland discusses the real-world effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines and the approval process for these vaccines, and he answers a number of listener questions.

a middle aged Asian woman sitting on a couch near a window with her hand on her chest looking worried, sad, perhaps in pain

Know the warning signs of stroke
May 10, 2021

On average, someone in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted, depriving the brain of oxygen. It's important to recognize the warning signs of stroke, because prompt treatment can minimize brain damage. Every moment is crucial. 

"Strokes commonly occur in people of all ages," says Dr. Robert Brown, Jr., chair of Mayo Clinic's Division of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases. "And, so, it's very important that people know what is a stroke, what are the symptoms and what are the risk factors for stroke?" 

May is National stroke Awareness Month. In this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Brown explains the importance of remembering the F.A.S.T. acronym to recognize a stroke: face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, time to call 911.