Athena IP

Dr Athena Ip

Research Fellow
BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD, CPsychol

Academic and research departments

School of Health Sciences.



Research interests


Katriina L. Whitaker, Laura Boswell, Jenny Harris, Athena Ip, Jessica Russell, Georgia B. Black (2023)Assessing awareness of blood cancer symptoms and barriers to symptomatic presentation: Measure development and results from a population survey in the UK, In: BMC Cancer BMC

Background Low levels of cancer awareness may contribute to delays in seeking medical help and subsequent delays in diagnosis. For blood cancer this may be a particularly prominent problem due to the high prevalence of undifferentiated symptoms such as bodily pain, weakness, nausea and weight loss, resulting in low symptom awareness. The delay is exacerbated by the dismissal of similar symptoms which are often interpreted as mild disease, resulting in multiple consultations prior to diagnosis. This study describes the development of a Cancer Awareness Measure for Blood Cancer (Blood CAM) and presents results from a population-representative survey using the measure. Methods A rapid systematic review identified constructs relevant to blood cancer. Items were taken from previous awareness measures and other literature and reviewed by expert groups including health care professionals and patients. Cognitive interviews were conducted with ten members of the public to check comprehension and clarity. A total sample of 434 participants completed the survey at Time 1 and n=302 at Time 2 (two weeks later). Results Internal reliability was high across the different constructs included in the questionnaire (>0.70) and test-retest reliability was moderate to good (0.49-0.79). The most commonly recognised blood cancer symptoms were unexplained weight loss (68.9%) and unexplained bleeding (64.9%) and the least commonly recognised symptoms were night sweats (31.3%) breathlessness and rash/itchy skin (both 44%). In terms of symptom experience, fatigue was the most commonly reported symptom (26.7%) followed by night sweats (25.4%). Exploratory factor analysis of barriers to presenting at primary care revealed three distinct categories of barriers; emotional, external/practical and service/healthcare professional related. Service and emotional barriers were most common. Conclusions We developed a valid and reliable tool to assess blood cancer awareness and showed variable awareness of blood cancer symptoms which can help target public health campaigns. We also incorporated additional measures (e.g. confidence to re-consult, ability to understand symptoms) that could be used to tailor public messaging for blood cancer and for other harder to suspect and diagnose cancers.

Freda Mold, Debbie Cooke, Athena Ip, Parijat Roy, Susan Denton, Jo Armes (2021)COVID-19 and beyond: virtual consultations in primary care-reflecting on the evidence base for implementation and ensuring reach: commentary article, In: BMJ health & care informatics28(1) Bmj Publishing Group
ATHENA IP, Georgia Black, Cecilia Vindrola-Padros, Claire Taylor, Sophie Otter, Madeleine Hewish, Afsana Bhuiya, Julie Callin, Angela Wong, Michael Machesney, James Green, Raymond Oliphant, Naomi J. Fulop, CATH TAYLOR, KATRIINA WHITAKER (2022)Healthcare Professional and Patient Perceptions of Changes in Colorectal Cancer Care Delivery During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Impact on Health Inequalities, In: Cancer control29 Sage

Background The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way in which people were diagnosed and treated for cancer. We explored healthcare professional and patient perceptions of the main changes to colorectal cancer delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic and how they impacted on socioeconomic inequalities in care. Methods In 2020, using a qualitative approach, we interviewed patients (n = 15) who accessed primary care with colorectal cancer symptoms and were referred for further investigations. In 2021, we interviewed a wide range of healthcare professionals (n = 30) across the cancer care pathway and gathered national and local documents/guidelines regarding changes in colorectal cancer care. Results Changes with the potential to exacerbate inequalities in care, included: the move to remote consultations; changes in symptomatic triage, new COVID testing procedures/ways to access healthcare, changes in visitor policies and treatment (e.g., shorter course radiotherapy). Changes that improved patient access/convenience or the diagnostic process have the potential to reduce inequalities in care. Discussion Changes in healthcare delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic have the ongoing potential to exacerbate existing health inequalities due to changes in how patients are triaged, changes to diagnostic and disease management processes, reduced social support available to patients and potential over-reliance on digital first approaches. We provide several recommendations to help mitigate these harms, whilst harnessing the gains.

ATHENA IP, Georgia Black, Cecilia Vindrola-Padros, Claire Taylor, Sophie Otter, Madeleine Hewish, Afsana Bhuiya, Julie Callin, Angela Wong, Michael Machesney, Naomi J. Fulop, CATH TAYLOR, KATRIINA WHITAKER (2022)Socioeconomic differences in help-seeking experiences in primary care for symptoms related to colorectal cancer during COVID-19: A UK-wide qualitative interview study, In: The British journal of general practice : the journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners British Journal of General Practice

Background COVID-19 has led to rapid changes in healthcare delivery, raising concern that these changes may exacerbate existing inequalities in patient outcomes. Aim To understand how patients’ help-seeking experiences in primary care for colorectal cancer symptoms during COVID-19 were affected by their socioeconomic status (SES). Design and setting Qualitative semi-structured interviews with males and females across the UK, recruited using purposive sampling by SES. Method Interviews were carried out with 39 participants (20 higher SES; 19 lower SES) who contacted primary care about possible symptoms of colorectal cancer during COVID-19. Data were analysed using framework analysis followed by comparative thematic analysis to explore differences between groups. Results Three themes were identified with differences between SES groups: 1) how people decided to seek medical help through appraisal of symptoms; 2) how people navigated services; and 3) impact of COVID-19 on how patients interacted with healthcare professionals. The lower SES group expressed uncertainty appraising symptoms and navigating services (in terms of new processes resulting from COVID-19 and worries about infection). There was also potential for increased disparity in diagnosis and management, with other methods of getting in touch (for example, email or 111) taken up more readily by higher SES patients. Conclusion The findings suggest that COVID-19 exacerbated disparities between higher and lower SES participants. This study raises awareness around challenges in help seeking in the context of the pandemic, which are likely to persist (post-COVID-19) as healthcare systems settle on new models of care (for example, digital). Recommendations are provided to reduce inequalities of care.

Additional publications