What is Incidental Abnormal Radiological Finding (IARF)
Incidental abnormal radiological finding is an unusual mass or tissue change that is found unexpectedly during an imaging test. IARFs are often found in the kidneys or lungs, but they can also be found in the heart, liver, breasts, brain, gallbladder, uterus, or other organs and tissues.
IARFs can cause symptoms or be related to an undiagnosed illness. Most often, however, they do not cause symptoms and are not a cause for concern.
What are common types of IARFs?
There are many types of IARFs. Common types include:
- Lesions. A lesion is a change in tissue due to infection, tissue death, or injury.
- Cysts. A cyst is a sac that is filled with fluid, crystals, or some other substance.
- Tumors. A tumor is a solid formation. Tumors can be cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign).
Your health care provider may use medical terms to describe the finding, such as “pulmonary nodule,” which means a small mass in the lung, or “renal mass,” which means a mass in the kidney. Ask your health care provider about any terms that you do not understand.
Do I need further diagnosis?
Your health care provider may recommend that you have tests to diagnose the cause of the IARF. Testing is recommended based on:
- The size and appearance of the IARF.
- Whether you have risk factors or medical conditions that increase your risk of problems.
- Whether you have symptoms or concerns.
In many cases, testing is not needed if the IARF is a very small mass or tissue change. Small masses or changes are not often likely to become a problem in the future.
What type of testing may be needed?
The following types of tests may be done when an IARF is found:
- Blood tests.
- Urine tests.
- Imaging tests, such as abdominal ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI.
Tests and physical exams may be done once, or they may be done regularly for a period of time. Tests and exams that are done regularly are performed to show whether the mass or tissue change is growing and becoming a concern.
What are common treatments?
Treatment varies depending on:
- The cause of the IARF.
- The location, size, and appearance of the IARF.
- Your age.
- Any underlying conditions or symptoms.
Treatment is not always needed. Your health care provider may recommend monitoring through watchful waiting and regular tests and exams. If treatment is needed, it may include:
- Treatments to reduce the size of the abnormality.
- Biopsy or surgical removal of the mass or tissue.
- Treatment to address any underlying conditions.
Follow these instructions at home:
- Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider, and schedule appointments as directed. This is important. It will allow any problems to be detected early, which can be very beneficial to you.
- Try to stay calm, and be sure to ask questions. Make sure you understand the recommendations for monitoring and understand whether there is a reason for concern.