Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

A grey literature review of special events for promoting cancer screenings

Cam Escoffery1*, Kirsten C Rodgers1, Michelle C Kegler1, Mary Ayala1, Erika Pinsker2 and Regine Haardörfer1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, Rollins School of Public Health, 1518 Clifton Road, 5th Floor, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA

2 University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Cancer 2014, 14:454  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-454

Published: 19 June 2014



Cancer remains the second leading cause of mortality in the United States. Special events such as health fairs, screening days or cultural festivals are employed often for community education about cancer screening. A previous systematic review of the published literature was conducted in 2012-2013. The purpose of this study was to conduct a grey literature component of special events that promote breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening in the U.S.


We conducted a grey literature search of dissertations/theses and conference abstracts. The theses/dissertations were restricted to those: 1) written in English, 2) published from January 1990 to December 2011, 3) examined at least one of the predefined categories of special events, 4) involved cancer screening for breast, cervical, and/or colorectal cancer, 5) included outcome data, and 6) conducted in the United States. A review of U.S. public health and cancer conference abstracts, that were readily available and had focused on at least of 3 cancer types and included outcome data, was conducted. Data were abstracted on the purpose, location, primary audience(s), activities conducted, screening provided onsite or referrals, and evaluation results.


The grey literature review found 6 special events. The types of events found added to the numbers found in the systematic review, especially receptions or parties and cultural festivals/events. All focused on increasing breast and cervical cancer screening except one that focused on breast cancer only. The reach of these events was targeted at mostly minorities or underserved communities. Common evidence-based strategies were group education, small media, and reducing structural barriers. Group education involved presentations from physicians, lay-health advisors, or cancer survivors, while reducing structural barriers included activities such as providing screening appointment sign-ups at the event or providing transportation for event participants. Mammogram screening rates ranged from 6.8% to 60% and Pap tests from 52% to 70%.


Further evaluation of special events to promote cancer screening will prove their effectiveness. A grey literature review can augment a systematic review of published literature. Additional data about these events through the grey literature offered additional insights into the goals, intervention components and outcomes of interventions.

Cancer screening; Community awareness; Cancer education; Breast cancer; Colorectal cancer; Cervical cancer