A cancer patient in the United States developed an “uncontrollable Irish accent” during treatment, despite never having been to Ireland nor having immediate relatives from the country. According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, the unnamed man in his 50s was being treated for prostate cancer by doctors from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, when he began speaking in an “Irish brogue accent” for the first time in his life.
The man developed the speech pattern roughly two years after he was diagnosed with metastatic hormone-sensitive prostate cancer. In their study report, the researchers noted that the man was presumably afflicted with Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS). They explained that the rare syndrome gave the man, who had no immediate family from Ireland, a “brogue” that remained until his death.
This unique case was jointly studied and reported by Duke University in North Carolina and the Carolina Urological Research Center in South Carolina. The researchers said that the man maintained his Irish accent through about 20 months of treatment, and a gradual onset of paralysis, until his death. They also noted that although the man had lived in his 20s, and had friends and more distant family members from Ireland, he had never visited Ireland, not previously spoken in an Irish accent.
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“He had no neurological examination abnormalities, psychiatric history or MRI of the brain abnormalities at symptom onset,” the report said, as per the BBC. “Despite chemotherapy, his neuroendocrine prostate cancer progressed resulting in multifocal brain metastases and a likely paraneoplastic ascending paralysis leading to his death,” it added.
The researchers believe that the man’s voice change was caused by a condition called paraneoplastic neurological disorder (PND) – which happens when a cancer patient’s immune system attack parts of their brain, as well as muscles, nerves and spinal cord.
“His accent was uncontrollable, present in all settings and gradually became persistent,” the report said.
Further, the study authors also stated that during their research, they could only find two similar cases recorded globally in recent years. Both other cases occurred in women cancer patients in their 50s and 60s between 2009 and 2011. “To our knowledge, this is the first case of FAS described in a patient with prostate cancer and the third described in a patient with malignancy,” researchers wrote in the study.
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