Rare cancer causes man to develop an Irish accent despite not having any Irish heritage
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An American man who has no Irish heritage whatsoever started to develop an Irish-sounding accent all of a sudden because of his prostate cancer.
The man, a cancer patient in his 50s, suddenly came out sounding as if he was from Ireland, and continued to talk that way for the rest of his life.
Strange as it might sound, these things do happen.
It’s called Foreign Accent Syndrome – FAS for short – and it is a rare speech disorder that causes people to – you’ve guessed it – speak with a foreign-sounding accent, seemingly for no reason.
Their pronunciation starts to mirror that of another accent, with the whole thing leaving that person with a completely different sounding voice.
There’s no known reason for this, but it is usually linked to strokes or brain trauma.
This is the first time it has been specifically linked to prostate cancer.
It’s such an unusual and medically confusing case that it was written about in the well-respected BMJ journal.
That case study explains: “A man in his 50s with metastatic hormone-sensitive prostate cancer, receiving androgen deprivation therapy and abiraterone acetate/prednisone, presented with an uncontrollable ‘Irish brogue’ accent despite no Irish background, consistent with foreign accent syndrome (FAS).
“He had no neurological examination abnormalities, psychiatric history or MRI of the brain abnormalities at symptom onset.”
That abstract also reveals that the man eventually died from his cancer, but also that his FAS as a result of the cancer was a ‘previously undescribed phenomenon’.
The case continues: “His presentation was most consistent with an underlying paraneoplastic neurological disorder (PND), despite a negative serum paraneoplastic panel.”
Paraneoplastic syndromes are rare disorders that happen when a person’s immune system reacts to cancerous tumours known as ‘neoplasms’ and attack the brain, spinal cord and nervous system.
There are a number of symptoms that can be linked with PND, including loss of balance, brain inflammation, psychiatric disturbances and FAS.
That’s what the doctors seem inclined to suspect in this case, although it’s not exactly clear how certain they are.
Probably the most famous case of FAS is that of a Norwegian woman back in 1941.
She suffered a head injury after a bombing in the capital Oslo – it was World War Two, after all – and suddenly started speaking with a German accent a few months later, without warning.
In the case of the man who started speaking in an Irish accent, the patient did not have any tumours in his brain that could have been deemed responsible for the voice change, although he did later develop some as his illness progressed.
"This unusual presentation highlights the importance of additional literature on FAS and PNDs associated with prostate cancer to improve understanding of the links between these rare syndromes and clinical trajectory," the case concludes.
It certainly seems as if there is more work to be done on the subject.