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A man in the US has reportedly developed an “uncontrollable Irish accent” after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, despite having no Irish background. The British Medical Journal (BMJ) said the patient’s symptoms are consistent with foreign accent syndrome (FAS), a rare disorder where a person’s normal accent gives way to a new one. Literature on the syndrome is scant, but several case studies have described the phenomenon in the past.
Writing in the BMJ, the authors said: “A man in his 50s with metastatic hormone-sensitive prostate cancer […] presented with an uncontrollable ‘Irish brogue’ accent despite no Irish background […].”
The report states no evidence of neurological examination abnormalities was found during imaging.
What the scientists did find, however, was the patient’s prostate cancer was advancing, despite receiving chemotherapy.
“He had no neurological examination psychiatric history or MRI of the brain abnormalities at symptom onset,” explained the authors.
“Despite chemotherapy, his neuroendocrine prostate cancer progressed resulting in multifocal brain metastases and a likely para-neoplastic ascending paralysis leading to his death.”
In other words, researchers observed that the progression of the disease led to multifocal brain tumours.
This type of metastasis is extremely rare with prostate cancer and typically occurs late in the course of the disease.
During the tests, the team also found signs of para-neoplastic disorder, a group of rare disorders that occur when the immune system reacts to a tumour known as a neoplasm.
The authors said: “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 a malignancy.”
The condition was first described in 1907 by a French neurologist named Pierre Marie.
Since then, just a little over 100 cases have been reported.
“With FAS, your native language will remain the same. In fact, you’ll still most likely be able to speak in full sentences without messing up the order or words,” explains WebMD.
“The only difference will be what your accent sounds like.”
Several patients afflicted by the condition have previously described that they feel as though there’s a “stranger in their house”.
The BBC reports tin 2006, a British woman called Linda Walker suffered a stroke and discovered that her Geordie accent had been replaced by a Jamaican-sounding voice.
She said at the time: “Not only did I have a stroke, but I got lumbered with this foreign accent syndrome as well.
“I didn’t realise what I sounded like, but then my speech therapist played a tape of me talking. I was just devastated.”
An even earlier case of FAS was detailed in 1941 when a Norwegian woman developed a German accent after being hit by bomb shrapnel during a Second World War air raid.
As a result, she was shunned by locals who believed she was a Nazi spy.
Fortunately, there have been cases where FAS patients have managed to regain their original accent either spontaneously or through speech therapy.
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