Data Mining in Breast Cancer Awareness Month or Too Much Information

Appropriately in this month of breast cancer awareness, I went today to get my lady bits pressed. Happens once a year, when I am lucky, every six months when there are wrinkles in the fabric. I am speaking of the interior fabric, not the ectoderm, which is wrinkling quite nicely and according to schedule. Not the LA schedule, mind you, where I look about twenty years older than women my age who choose to fight back the tide of aging with additional help from medical science.

On the way over to the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Center, I was listening to NPR, a conversation among authorities on data mining moderated by Warren Olney.

There is apparently an awful lot of data to be mined. Everything we do leaves a digital marketing pentimento telling the miners much more than we really want them to know. How creepy is it that you can fill out a survey intending to contribute to the furtherance of modern medical science, and suddenly find yourself on some no-fly, or bad-housing-risk list?

Don’t tweet that you are having car trouble, because you may end up classified as a deadbeat with poor credit, and be put on that bad housing list or a list engendering risky mortgage offerings. The brokerage of imperfect lists, and they are grossly imperfect, it seems, is legal, and may be very hard to elude once you are on a list that has been sold to ten different marketing firms.

For example, news of today’s purchase of the refill pack of four replacement brushes for my Philips Sonicare toothbrush has landed me on every dentist’s mailing list in the greater Los Angeles area.

My visit to the mammography technician will undoubtedly illicit advertisements for reconstructive surgery, or god forbid, new bras.

But at the risk of breaking HIPAA laws, I can tell you there are interesting and very friendly women waiting at the Mammography center. Nothing like a potential brush with disease to bring out the best in women. There is an equalizing aspect to the well-washed blue cotton gowns missing their front ties that we all clutch to keep them closed. We bond in the luxury of having nothing to do but read People magazine, and also in that miserable hiatus between the mammogram and the news that you are finished and can go up to see your doctor, or must return to the scanning room for a second press of the flesh.

In between the brave and the nonchalant, there sits the occasional woman, cheeks pink and flushed, head heavy on her curled fist, who waits for her turn in the ultrasound technician’s room. I have been there. It is a dark place, that moment between the surety of health and the uncertainty of what may lie ahead. Our interior monologues are rich, dark and complex, while our friendly banter belies our fears.

So, for all my sisters out there whose mammograms fall in October, Breast Cancer Awareness month, try not to worry as you wait. It will result in lines and more wrinkles to be pressed. Don’t sweat it- I will be happy to share all the botox referrals that this blog brings once those busy data miners are done.

http://www.kcrw.com/news-culture/shows/which-way-la

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