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    Dancing Prevents Jennifer Grey's Cancer Scare From Getting Too Scary

    DWTS ABC/GREG ZABILSKI

    Thanks to Dancing With the Stars' requirement that contestants be healthy (at least when they start the show), Jennifer Grey still has many more times-of-her-life to be had.

    The actress' rep confirms to E! News that a spinal surgeon who counts Karina Smirnoff as a patient encouraged Grey to have what she thought was a benign nodule removed from her neck last year.

    And it's a good thing she did, because the lump turned out to be cancerous.

    After the December 2009 procedure, Grey "required no follow-up treatment and was given a clean bill of health to be part of this season's cast on Dancing With the Stars," her rep says.

    The 50-year-old Dirty Dancing star (my, how time flies) told Zap2It that she told the DWTS docs that her neck was "killing" her, chronic pain from a bad car accident years ago, and that she should get it checked out by a specialist to see if she was fit enough to do the show.

    "I went to this neurological spine surgeon who I heard was the best," Grey said.

    First of all, the ligaments in the back of her neck were torn, her spinal cord was compressed and the doctor told her that a fall or even a minor car accident could leave her paralyzed.

    "He also said to me, 'What's that lump in your neck?'" Grey recalled. "I said, 'Oh, it's just a benign nodule that I've been watching for four years.' I didn't want to have surgery for it, but he said, 'That has to go.' They took out half of it, and it turned out to be cancerous. Then they took the second half out on Christmas Eve."

    And now, the only fall Grey has to worry about is the fall season of DWTS, premiering Sept. 20. The actress, who "didn't do the lift, but it was good," is partnered with two-time champ Derek Hough and is already considered an early favorite.

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    Check out the celebs sweating behind the scenes in our DWTS: Season 11 gallery.

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