We present analytic expressions for the amplitude and phase of phase of photon-density waves in strongly scattering, spherically symmetric, two-layer media containing a spherical object. This layered structure is a crude model of multilayered tissues whose absorption and scattering coefficients lie within a range reported in the literature for most tissue types. The embedded object simulates a pathology, such as a tumor. The normal-mode-series method is employed to solve the inhomogeneous Helmholtz equation in spherical coordinates, with suitable boundary conditions. By comparing the total field at points in the outer layer at a fixed distance from the origin when the object is present and when it is absent, we evaluate the potential sensitivity of an optical imaging system to inhomogeneities in absorption and scattering. For four types of background media with different absorption and scattering properties, we determine the modulation frequency that achieves an optimal compromise between signal-detection reliability and sensitivity to the presence of an object, the minimum detectable object radius, and the smallest detectable change in the absorption and scattering coefficients for a fixed object size. Our results indicate that (1) enhanced sensitivity to the object is achieved when the outer layer is more absorbing or more scattering than the inner layer; (2) sensitivity to the object increases with the modulation frequency, except when the outer layer is the more absorbing; (3) amplitude measurements are proportionally more sensitive to a change in absorption, phase measurements are proportionally more sensitive to a change in scattering, and phase measurements exhibit a much greater capacity for distinguishing an absorption perturbation from a scattering perturbation.