Estimating sensitivity and sojourn time in screening for colorectal cancer: a comparison of statistical approaches

Am J Epidemiol. 1998 Sep 15;148(6):609-19. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a009687.


The effectiveness of cancer screening depends crucially on two elements: the sojourn time (that is, the duration of the preclinical screen-detectable period) and the sensitivity of the screening test. Previous literature on methods of estimating mean sojourn time and sensitivity has largely concentrated on breast cancer screening. Screening for colorectal cancer has been shown to be effective in randomized trials, but there is little literature on the estimation of sojourn time and sensitivity. It would be interesting to demonstrate whether methods commonly used in breast cancer screening could be used in colorectal cancer screening. In this paper, the authors consider various analytic strategies for fitting exponential models to data from a screening program for colorectal cancer conducted in Calvados, France, between 1991 and 1994. The models yielded estimates of mean sojourn time of approximately 2 years for 45- to 54-year-olds, 3 years for 55- to 64-year-olds, and 6 years for 65- to 74-year-olds. Estimates of sensitivity were approximately 75%, 50%, and 40% for persons aged 45-54, 55-64, and 65-74 years, respectively. There is room for improvement in all models in terms of goodness of fit, particularly for the first year after screening, but results from randomized trials indicate that the sensitivity estimates are roughly correct.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Time Factors