Researchers in the United States have reported an unusual case of a man diagnosed with prostate cancer who developed an “uncontrollable Irish accent” despite not having one before, nor ever setting foot in the Emerald Isle
Researchers from Duke University, North Carolina, and Carolina Urologic Research Centre in South Carolina say the man in his 50s, had metastatic hormone-sensitive prostate cancer.
Twenty months after his cancer diagnosis, the researchers say the patient’s speech changed. “His accent was uncontrollable, present in all settings and gradually became persistent,” the researchers say in their report, published in late January.
Although he lived in England briefly in his 20s and had Irish family and friends, the researchers say the patient had never been to Ireland or spoke in an Irish accent before.
The man also had no history of psychiatric disease, head trauma or any known psychosocial stressor before his speech change appeared, the report says.
Even as his condition worsened, the researchers say the man still kept his Irish accent up until his death months later.
The researchers believe the situation is a case of foreign accent syndrome, also referred to as pseudo-FAS and dysprosody, which they describe as a consistent change in speech that makes it seem as if a person has a foreign accent.
It can often occur due to stroke, although documented cases exist of FAS being associated with earlier head trauma and history of psychiatric disease, the researchers say.
The report points to paraneoplastic neurological disorder (PND) as the most likely cause of the patient’s FAS.
The BMJ report says past research has suggested an association between paraneoplastic syndromes and disease progression in prostate cancer, as was the case with this patient.
“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,” the report says.