Dr. Regmi

Critical aspects of kidney cancer including risk factors, symptoms, and prevention strategies with Dr. Subodh Regmi

March is Kidney Cancer Awareness Month. This month we sat down with Dr. Subodh Regmi, a urologic oncologist at the University of Minnesota, to discuss critical aspects of kidney cancer including risk factors, symptoms, prevention strategies, and the latest advancements in detection and treatment. Dr. Regmi will also be the special guest at the upcoming Fireside Chat on March 20

Could you give us a brief background on your education, what intrigued you about your field of specialty, and what brought you to the University of Minnesota? 

I was born and brought up in Nepal. I went to medical school in the picturesque town of Pokhara in Nepal and graduated in 2004. My interest in surgery and urology took me to India, at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. I completed my general surgery and urology residency and graduated in 2014. My research focus during residency has been on robotic techniques in urology and urologic oncology and I have been interested in comprehensive care of urologic cancer patients. Moving back to Nepal, I set out on a mission to further train myself in urologic cancer care and found my mentors at the University of Minnesota, where I have stayed following my fellowship to continue my passion. 

What is kidney cancer, what are the symptoms, and how is it diagnosed?

Kidney cancer is also known as renal cell cancer. Kidneys are paired organs located in the upper abdomen on either side of the midline. Any tumor in the kidney that shows uncontrolled growth and has the potential to spread to other organs in the body is considered kidney cancer. It often remains asymptomatic—which means it can be there without showing any signs at all— and is most commonly detected when a patient has an ultrasound or CT of the abdomen for unrelated reasons. Some people experience pain in the abdomen, mass in the upper abdomen, or even blood in the urine. But most often, it is discovered accidentally. Advanced tumors may present with loss of appetite, weight loss, and high blood pressure. Diagnosis is primarily through tests like a CT or MRI of the abdomen and sometimes using tissue diagnostic tests like biopsy. The main way to confirm the diagnosis is through pathological testing which often occurs after surgery for removal of kidney cancer.

What preventative measures can people take against kidney cancer?

We can certainly decrease the risk of kidney cancer. Here are a few ways to lower your risk:

  • Avoid/stop smoking: there is a strong association between smoking and kidney cancer risk
  • Maintain a healthy weight: obesity has been associated with the risk of kidney cancer
  • Ensure a healthy lifestyle: a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and an active lifestyle with regular physical activity and exercise
  • Blood pressure control: there are some associations between high blood pressure and the diagnosis of kidney cancer
  • Chemical exposure: being exposed to heavy metals like cadmium, trichloroethylene, and vinyl chloride can increase the risk

What health disparities exist in kidney cancer?

There are a few that come to mind. Kidney cancers are more common in men than in women. African Americans are more likely to suffer from kidney cancer than Caucasian men and similarly, African American men are more likely to die of this type of  cancer than Caucasian men. One additional challenge is that African Americans and other minority groups have been commonly seen to lack access to quality healthcare in general, but particularly through places of employment, which can negatively impact the outcomes of kidney cancer—meaning there is less of a chance in these instances that patients will receive the quality care they need. 

How is your research at the University of Minnesota advancing understanding of kidney cancer and how we prevent/diagnose/treat it?

Research in the Department of Urology at the University of Minnesota has focused on advancing techniques of kidney cancer surgery and using automated tools for kidney cancer diagnosis and evaluation,on top of being involved with various national and international kidney cancer trials.