Kevin Mazur / 1 / 3
Kevin Mazur / 1 / 3

Signing up for "Dancing With the Stars" has saved actress Jennifer Grey's life: A doctor discovered a cancerous lump in her neck during a pre-series health check.

The 50-year-old consulted a doctor to make sure she was fit enough for the grueling dance show, and used the check-up to correct a neck pain problem.

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She tells, "Last year, my neck was killing me, so I said to them, 'Let me have it checked out and see if I even could do this (show).' I went to this neurological spine surgeon who I heard was the best. I knew he had operated on (dancer) Karina (Smirnoff), and I figured I would tell him I wanted to do 'Dancing With the Stars' and ask him what I needed to get through it.

"I'd had a really bad car accident years ago, and basically, the ligaments in the back of my neck were ripped and I'd never addressed that. It degenerated, and the surgeon said, 'Right now, your spinal cord is compressed. If you fell or got rear-ended, you'd be paralyzed.'"

"He also said to me, 'What's that lump in your neck?' 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."

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After the surgery, Grey felt great and is now ready to battle it out with competitors, including David Hasselhoff and Brandy.

She adds, "I was so frightened of the surgery, I didn't want to even consider that it would be successful. And it was so successful, I proceeded to do everything else on my to-do list that I was afraid of, including doing this show.

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"I figure that if I don't do it now, I'll be too old for it. My body is clearly giving out. Now, I've got a new neck. And I also have no cancer."

The new "Dancing With the Stars" season begins Sept. 20.