Will Rogers phenomenon
A shift in the mean values of 2 sets of data when a subset is moved from group A to group B.
The term was coined in honour of American cowboy-philosopher, Will Rogers (1879-1935), who observed that truth was relative to one’s vantage point and famously said, “When the Okies left Oklahoma for California, they raised the IQ of both states.”
As applied to oncology, the Will Rogers phenomenon refers to the “improved” survival of patients with cancer by either reclassifying them into different prognostic groups, as a result of recognising more subtle disease manifestations, or by using diagnostic modalities which allow the disease to be diagnosed at an earlier stage. The Will Rogers phenomenon results in a zero-time shift and an improved prognosis without affecting actual survival. When classified by symptom stages without using new diagnostic procedures, survival for the same cancer has not substantially changed. Some authors believe that advances in diagnostic technology blinds the medical community to the actual lack of progress in treating cancer.
Synonym Stage migration
References Ann Int Med 1983; 99:843
NEJM 1985; 312:1604, 313:1291c