In an interview with University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine that has been off the radar until very recently, Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain revealed that he was diagnosed with Stage 1 laryngeal cancer in 2020.
Throughout the diagnosis and treatment procedure, McBrain, who turned 70 this past June, kept this news out of the public. Even when he explained the details to the university in an interview published in mid-September of 2021, it is something that has now come to light in a more widespread way.
Fortunately, he and his doctors caught the cancer early and were able to treat it without much apparent incident.
It began in 2019 when McBrain noticed his voice, which is usually hoarse after touring, was more weathered than usual.
“When I play drums with the band, I actually sort of scream and yell while I play, like a Judo guy slapping the mat,” he told University of Miami and recalled, “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. 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.”
Laryngeal cancer can impact the vocal cords and other areas around the voice box and McBrain’s was removed within a week of diagnosis by Dr. Rosow at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Florida. Since, the drummer has continued (through the time of the September 2021 interview, at least) to receive regular check-ups to monitor his remission status.
“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,” he urged, “It was very good for me that I caught it in stage 1.”
His bandmate, singer Bruce Dickinson, also overcame cancer after receiving a throat cancer diagnosis in late 2014 after Maiden wrapped up the recording sessions for their 2015 album, The Book of Souls.
Since the diagnosis and subsequent treatment, McBrain completed the final leg of Iron Maiden’s massive The Legacy of the Beast tour. Looking ahead at 2023, the band will continue to support their latest album, Senjutsu, on a tour that will also more specifically celebrate the classic Somewhere in Time album as well. So far, only a dozen dates in Europe and the U.K. have been announced what’s being dubbed The Future Past tour.
Speaking about the transcendental nature of music and what he does for a living, McBrain added,
“Music is an amazing thing. There are no borders, no parameters that say you can or cannot listen to this band. That’s the beautiful thing about it. We get these young kids that their mums turn them on or even their grandparents turn them on to the band. I have known stories where the kids have turned the mums and dads on to Iron Maiden. It’s lovely.”