Iron Maiden’s Nicko McBrain Quietly Battled Laryngeal Cancer

Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer in 2020, but thankfully is now cancer-free. The metal veteran actually revealed his cancer battle last year in an inconspicuous interview with the University of Miami’s School of Medicine that has just been picked up by Blabbermouth.

McBrain started noticing a change in his voice in 2019 that served as a cause of concern. He initially chalked it up to a habit he’s developed while drumming: “When I play drums with the band, I actually sort of scream and yell while I play, like a Judo guy slapping the mat.”

However, he eventually felt that there was something more to his vocal issues this time around. “When you are lying down in a quiet room and you speak and hear your voice in your head and have a cold, you sound different,” said McBrain. “This happened to me. I thought this is very reminiscent — this different sounding voice of mine — to when I finish a tour or after a show. I didn’t have a cold or any symptoms of illness at all. I started to feel that I was clearing my throat more when I was in conversations. So, I just took it on myself to call my doctor.”

In 2020, he underwent an endoscopy performed by Dr. David E. Rosow and was diagnosed with stage 1 laryngeal cancer. Rosow, who is also an associate professor of Otolaryngology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, warned, “Anyone who is experiencing a voice change that lasts longer than three weeks should see an otolaryngologist who can evaluate a person’s vocal folds.”

The doctor added, “Many cases present with a voice change like Nicko’s and often when the tumor is as small as one to two millimeters, which makes the tumor easier to completely remove. The prognosis with early (stage 1) tumors is excellent, with published cure rates of 95% and up.”

McBrain offered, “I thoroughly recommend that anyone who may feel there is something different with their voice to go and get it checked out. And don’t put it off. It was very good for me that I caught it in stage 1.”

Rosow removed the cancerous tumor a week after the diagnosis, and as it turned out, the concert-industry shutdown of 2020 allowed McBrain time to heal. The drummer continues to get check-ups every few months to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned.

McBrain’s diagnosis followed bandmate Bruce Dickinson’s own battle with tongue cancer. The singer eventually was declared cancer-free after weeks of chemotherapy and radiation.

Iron Maiden recently wrapped up their extensive “Legacy of the Beast Tour,” including a late October show in New Jersey that Heavy Consequence caught (see our recap and photos). Next year, the band will revisit their album Somewhere in Time on their new “Future Past Tour,” set to hit the UK and Europe in June.

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