How cancer can make you speak in an IRISH accent: American man who had never visited the isle


A cancer-stricken man woke up to discover he suddenly had an Irish accent – ​​despite never having been to the country.

The American had been battling advanced prostate cancer for nearly two years before seeking advice for his “uncontrollable brogue.”

Doctors diagnosed the man in his 50s with extremely rare foreign accent syndrome (FAS).

It means he’s only one of a handful of people to have ever experienced the speech disorder, which usually occurs as a complication of a stroke or head injury.

But North Carolina medics — who treated him and shared snippets of his voice before and after the bizarre change — think his cancer was to blame. He later died.

The American had been battling advanced prostate cancer for nearly two years before seeking advice for his “uncontrollable brogue.” Pictured, Classiebawn Castle, Mullaghmore, Sligo

The man in his 50s had been battling advanced prostate cancer for nearly two years before seeking advice for his

The man in his 50s had been battling advanced prostate cancer for nearly two years before seeking advice for his “uncontrollable brogue.” Pictured above, MRI scans released by doctors at Duke University Health System of the man’s brain. Scans A are T2 weighted images, while scans B are smooth attenuated inversion recovery images

The Duke University Health System team presented its case in the British Medical Journal Case Reports and said they believe the man had developed a paraneoplastic neurological disorder (PND).

Foreign Accent Syndrome: What Do We Know?

Foreign accent syndrome is a rare condition in which the patient speaks with a different accent than their natural speaking style.

It is usually the result of head or brain injury, with strokes being the most common cause.

FAS can also develop after trauma to the brain, bleeding in the brain, or a brain tumor. Other causes have also been reported, including multiple sclerosis and conversion disorder.

It has been recorded only 150 times worldwide since its discovery in 1907.

FAS has been documented in cases around the world, including accent changes from Japanese to Korean, British English to French, and Spanish to Hungarian.

It causes patients to pronounce vowels in different ways, move their tongue and jaw differently when speaking to produce a different sound, and even replace words with others they don’t normally use.

In some cases, no clear cause has been found.

Foreign accent syndrome can last for months or years, or even be permanent.

These are rare complications of cancer, caused by disease-fighting cells in the immune system mistakenly attacking the nervous system.

Usually this causes muscle movement or coordination problems, but it can also affect thinking and memory.

The man, who was not identified, was being treated at “an outside facility” for prostate cancer that had spread throughout his body.

In the course of 20 months he had received androgen deprivation therapy – a hormone therapy to suppress or block the production or action of male hormones, as well as radiotherapy.

Worried about his sudden change, the man revealed that he had never been to Ireland and had never spoken with an Irish accent before.

However, he told medics that he had Irish family and friends and had lived briefly in England in his twenties.

Doctors said his new accent was “uncontrollable, present in all environments and gradually becoming more persistent.”

Prior to his speech change, he also had no known head trauma and was not suffering from any psychiatric illness.

Although he lost weight unintentionally, he reported no other symptoms.

Results of an MRI scan of the brain also showed no abnormalities, ruling out the usual causes of foreign accent syndrome.

But a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis revealed that his prostate cancer had spread further, with “a new cluster of lymph nodes in the right pelvis above the bladder.”

Because of his progressive prostate cancer, he was referred to the Duke Cancer Institute for further treatment three months later.

At the time, the man was still consistently speaking with the “Irish brogue” accent, medics noted.

But his cancer had progressed to neuroendocrine prostate cancer (NEPC), a deadly variant of prostate cancer.

According to the doctors, there are many known cases of PNDs presenting as symptoms of patients with NEPC.

In the UK, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer. One in eight men will be diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime, charities say.

However, the current outlook for patients with advanced prostate cancer is poor and few treatment options are available.

About 12,000 men die from the disease each year in the UK – 33 each day – with nearly 35,000 deaths per year in the US.

Medics wrote that the man was transferred to hospice soon after due to his “rapid clinical decline” as his cancer progressed despite chemotherapy.

He died “shortly afterwards,” they noted.

“His Irish brogue-like accent was preserved until his death,” they wrote in the BMJ publication.

Foreign Accent Syndrome can also occur after trauma to the brain, bleeding in the brain, or a brain tumor.

Since its discovery in 1907, only about 150 cases have been documented worldwide.

It is different from foreign language syndrome. The condition occurs when people suddenly forget to speak their native language and instead rely on a second language. This could be a language they haven’t spoken for years.


How many people does it kill?

More than 11,800 men a year – or one every 45 minutes – die from the disease in Britain, compared with about 11,400 women who die from breast cancer.

It means prostate cancer is behind only lungs and bowel in terms of how many people it kills in Britain.

In the US, 26,000 men die from the disease each year.

Despite this, it receives less than half of breast cancer research funding and treatments for the disease are at least a decade behind schedule.

How many men are diagnosed each year?

Each year, more than 52,300 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK – more than 140 a day.

How fast is it developing?

Prostate cancer usually develops slowly, so there may not be any signs that someone has had it for years, according to the NHS.

If the cancer is at an early stage and does not cause symptoms, a policy of ‘watchful waiting’ or ‘active surveillance’ may be followed.

Some patients can be cured if the disease is treated at an early stage.

But if it is diagnosed at a later stage, when it has spread, it becomes terminal and treatment revolves around relieving the symptoms.

Thousands of men are deterred from getting a diagnosis because of the known side effects of the treatment, including erectile dysfunction.

Testing and treatment

Tests for prostate cancer are haphazard, with accurate tools just beginning to emerge.

There is no nationwide prostate screening program because the tests have been too imprecise for years.

Doctors struggle to differentiate between aggressive and less severe tumors, making it difficult to make a decision about treatment.

Men over the age of 50 are eligible for a ‘PSA’ blood test that gives doctors a rough idea of ​​whether a patient is at risk.

But it is unreliable. Patients who get a positive result usually get a biopsy which is also not foolproof.

Scientists aren’t sure what causes prostate cancer, but age, obesity, and lack of exercise are known risks.

Anyone concerned can speak to Prostate Cancer UK specialist nurses on 0800 074 8383 or visit

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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