Health Life

Using social media to map disease

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People around the world compose and send more than 500 million Tweets every day—and in the middle of a global pandemic, there’s a lot to be learned from those geotags and hashtags. The massive amounts of data created by social media sites like Twitter is helping researchers gain powerful insights into the COVID-19 outbreak.. One of the researchers at the forefront of this work is Georgia State computer scientist Juan M. Banda, who specializes in machine learning and natural language processing.

“Each time we pick up our smartphones and share a Tweet or update our status, we’re providing information about ourselves in the form of data,” says Banda. “All those bits and bytes provide a snapshot of our lives. On a macro scale they can provide insights into society and populations on a number of fronts.”

Banda, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science, began a project in March to collect and analyze Twitter data related to COVID-19. To date, his lab has compiled more than 700 million Tweets, which have yielded insights on the spread of misinformation and how human mobility has driven the pandemic’s next move. He has also studied the reported symptoms of so-called long-haulers—patients who continue to suffer from long-term health problems as a result of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Using social media to map disease
Credit: Meg Buscema

The team has made the dataset publicly available as a resource for the global research community, and it’s already been downloaded more than 30,000 times. The data have also been used in several multi-national studies.

Banda says his passion for came during at Montana State University, where he worked on the huge volume of data being generated by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory mission. That led to work in astroinformatics and a Ph.D. in computer science. It

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Emotional Support for Young People with Cancer

Receiving a cancer diagnosis and going through treatment can make you feel as if you’re on an emotional rollercoaster. This is especially true for young adults. You may feel shocked, afraid, angry, sad, embarrassed, and lonely as you start treatment. Over the course of your illness you, like many other young people, may also feel hopeful, determined, and optimistic. These are often referred to as the psychosocial effects of cancer treatment. Just as you talk with your treatment team about the physical side effects of cancer treatment, it’s also important to talk about how you are feeling emotionally.

Depending upon your age and cancer type you may be treated at a children’s hospital by a pediatric oncologist, or at a university hospital or medical center by a medical oncologist who treats adults with cancer. A growing number of hospitals, including many NCI-Designated Cancer Centers, offer psychosocial support programs designed for young people with cancer. These programs may include art therapy, music therapy, adventure-based programs, fertility preservation programs, and young adult support groups

Next Steps after a Cancer Diagnosis

As a young person, you’re probably new to the health care system and haven’t yet had to make major health decisions. Use the strategies listed below to gain a sense of control as you begin treatment. 

Learn about your cancer type and treatment options. Being knowledgeable about the type of cancer you have and your treatment options can help you play an active role in your care. There’s a lot of information online and not all of it is relevant to your specific cancer diagnosis or to cancer in young adults. Keep in mind that based on your age and cancer type you may be treated according to a pediatric cancer treatment