Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast episodes that feature news, information and stories from our cancer experts and patients, hosted by Dr. Halena Gazelka.
Most Recent Episodes
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
Systemic therapies for breast cancer
October 18, 2021
Systemic therapies are drugs that are taken orally or by IV to treat cancer. Types of systemic therapies for breast cancer include chemotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy and targeted drug therapy. Which therapy is used depends on which type of breast cancer is being treated.
"The goal of systemic therapy is simply to either inhibit the growth of cancer cells or to kill them and to eradicate them from the body," says Dr. Matthew Goetz, a medical oncologist at Mayo Clinic. Dr. Goetz is also co-leader of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center Women’s Cancer Program.
"If you can imagine a patient who is diagnosed with breast cancer, and those cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, or the bone or the lung, we refer to this as stage 4 breast cancer," says Dr. Goetz. "For those patients, systemic therapy really is the predominant therapy that we would use to slow down, eradicate and eliminate those cancer cells."
While patients have many systemic therapy options, Mayo Clinic research seeks to improve on these treatments and develop new drugs to treat and prevent cancer.
"We're one of six centers in the country that has a specialized program of research excellence, which means that we have a large group of individuals doing research in the area of drug development," explains Dr. Goetz. "For example, we have a group that's developing new vaccines to actually prevent breast cancer. We're excited to see the results of that study."
On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Goetz discusses advances in using systemic therapies to treat breast cancer.
Next steps, new leader for Mayo Clinic Cancer Center
October 11, 2021
Dr. Cheryl Willman was named executive director of Mayo Clinic Cancer Programs, and director of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in May. In this role, Dr. Willman is leading the expansion and strategic development of Mayo Clinic Cancer Center locations in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota, as well as newly developing Mayo Clinic global cancer programs in London and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Mayo Clinic Cancer Center is designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as a comprehensive cancer center. At comprehensive cancer centers, staff coordinate innovative cancer care delivery for patients; conduct team-based cancer research to develop better means to prevent, detect and treat cancer; involve communities and patients in research; and train the next generation of cancer health professionals. Mayo Clinic Cancer Center offers its patients access to hundreds of clinical trials in all phases that test new and improved cancer treatments.
"We have a menu of over 300 cancer clinical trials every year that are testing new drugs and bringing treatments to patients," says Dr. Willman. "Cancer clinical trials are essential to advancing our knowledge in cancer care."
Work is underway at Mayo Clinic Cancer Center to grow the Cancer Care at Home program and engage local communities, which can help address disparities in health care. Other initiatives include making advances in radiation therapy techniques and using genomics to develop individualized care for patients.
Mayo Clinic Cancer Center also is expanding the use of patient navigators, allowing cancer patients to have one point of contact to help them navigate the complexities of cancer care that often involves many specialists.
"For a breast cancer patient, for example, that would include breast cancer surgeons, medical oncologists who give chemotherapy, radiation oncologists who give radiation, but also physical medicine and rehabilitation, nutrition, psychosocial support, and access to clinical trials," says Dr. Willman. "A patient navigator becomes the primary contact person for a patient we're caring for and truly navigates them through all of their providers."
On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Willman discusses the innovations taking place at Mayo Clinic to improve cancer care for patients.
Treating and preventing liver cancer
October 4, 2021
While still relatively rare, the rate of primary liver cancer has been increasing in recent decades, disproportionately affecting minority populations.
"Research has shown that Blacks and Hispanics are less likely to be diagnosed with liver cancer at an earlier stage, compared to whites," says Dr. Sumera Ilyas, a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist. "And that, in turn, means the odds of being eligible for potentially curative treatments are lower for these patients."
These disparities are due to many potential reasons.
"These differences in diagnosis may be due to differences in access to primary or subspecialty health care. They may also be due to differences in surveillance," explains Dr. Ilyas.
The National Cancer Institute estimates that more than 42,000 new cases of liver cancer will be diagnosed in 2021, representing 2.2% of all new cancer cases in the U.S.
The most common type of primary liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma. Other types of liver cancer, such as intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma and hepatoblastoma, are much less common.
"The vast majority of liver cancers — over 90% — occur in patients who have a chronic liver disease," says Dr. Ilyas. "Cirrhosis, or advanced scarring of the liver, is the strongest risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma."
Chronic infection with the hepatitis B or hepatitis C viruses also increases your risk of liver cancer.
A wide range of treatment options for primary liver cancer are available. Which treatment is used depends on the stage of the disease.
On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Ilyas discusses liver cancer diagnoses and treatment options, and the importance of prevention.
Treatment options for pediatric brain tumors
September 22, 2021
Of the many different types of pediatric brain tumors some are noncancerous, or benign, and some are cancerous, or malignant. Treatment and chance of recovery, or prognosis, depend on the type of tumor, its location within the brain, whether it has spread, and your child's age and general health. Because new treatments and technologies are continually being developed, several options may be available at different points in treatment.
On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Angela Mattke, a Mayo Clinic pediatrician and host of Ask The Mayo Mom, will discuss treatment options for brain tumors in children with guests Dr. Soumen Khatua and Dr. Jonathan Schwartz — both Mayo Clinic pediatric neuro-oncologists — and Dr. David Daniels, a Mayo Clinic pediatric neurosurgeon. This conversation is part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Accurate diagnosis is key to treating lymphoma
September 17, 2021
Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of the body's germ-fighting network. The lymphatic system includes the lymph nodes or glands, the spleen, the thymus gland, and bone marrow.
Knowing exactly which type of lymphoma you have is key to developing an effective treatment plan.
"The main problem with lymphoma is accurate diagnosis," says Dr. Jose Villasboas Bisneto, Mayo Clinic hematologist. "It is a rare cancer in proportion to the other cancers, so most cancer doctors will not see many lymphoma patients in any given month, or even a given year."
Tests used to diagnose lymphoma include imaging tests, such as PET, CT or MRI scans, as well as biopsies of the lymph nodes and bone marrow.
What treatment is best for a patient depends on the lymphoma type and its severity.
On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Villasboas Bisneto discusses the various types of lymphoma and how they are treated.
What happens after a prostate cancer diagnosis?
September 13, 2021
After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men. One in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute.
While some types of prostate cancer grow slowly, and may need minimal or even no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.
So if you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Now what?
"It's very important to know the extent or stage of the cancer," says Dr. R. Jeffrey Karnes, a Mayo Clinic urologist and chair of the Division of Community Urology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Diagnosis and staging are done using tests, including ultrasound, MRI and biopsy.
Prostate cancer that's detected early — when it's still confined to the prostate gland — has the best chance for successful treatment. Prostate cancer treatment options depend on several factors, such as how fast the cancer is growing, whether it has spread, as well as the potential benefits or side effects of the treatment.
On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Karnes discusses treatment options for prostate cancer and the latest in clinical trials and research.
Cancer is the leading disease-related cause of death in children
September 9, 2021
One in every 266 children and adolescents will be diagnosed with cancer by age 20, according to the American Cancer Society.
Sarcoma — the term for a group of cancers that begin in the bones and in the soft or connective tissues — is one of the more common types of childhood cancer.
Fortunately, recent treatment advances have increased survival rates. Of children diagnosed with cancer, 84% now survive five years or more. One of the advances in treatment has been improvement in radiation therapy techniques and the use of proton beam therapy for treating pediatric cancers.
"Radiation therapy works very well for sarcomas," says Dr. Wendy Allen-Rhoades, a Mayo Clinic pediatric hematologist and oncologist. "And the difference between conventional radiation and proton therapy radiation is that our radiation oncologists are able to contour a little bit tighter with proton therapy. Therefore, the surrounding tissue that is normal is spared from some of the side effects. This is really important in children who are growing because we want them to be able to grow normally."
In addition to sparing healthy tissue from the effects of radiation, people who must undergo radiation therapy early in life are less likely to have long-term side effects and complications, such as secondary cancers, with proton beam therapy than with conventional radiation therapy.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Allen-Rhoades discusses pediatric sarcomas and the importance of funding for research and support of families dealing with pediatric cancer.