Jennifer Grey’s injuries from a car crash lead to a cancer diagnosis

Dirty Dancing: Jennifer Grey says she was ‘terrified of doing lift'

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In the head-on collision, Grey was lucky to survive, suffering from whiplash and several ripped ligaments in the back of her neck. Over the decades, chronic pain became part of Grey’s daily life. “I tried massage, heat pads, ice, anti-inflammatories – anything and everything that could offer relief,” Grey said. “Nothing offered long-term results.”

Then, in 2009, when asked to star in Dancing With The Stars, she underwent a routine physical.

Spine surgeon Dr Robert Bray found Grey’s results to be “very abnormal”.

He elaborated: “When I tapped her reflexes, they were very jumpy, which is a sign that something is pressing against the spinal cord.

“X-rays showed that her neck had a dramatic angulation (sharp bend) and there was slippage of one vertebrae onto another, to a dangerous extent.

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“The amount of slippage was actually cutting off the area through which the spinal canal runs.”

Dr Bray continued: “As a result of these injuries, there was no fluid around Jennifer’s spinal cord – none.

“That means if she fell, slipped on the dance floor, or experienced a sudden head movement or minor rear-end car accident, she could have been paralysed.”

Performing an anterior fusion to place her neck back into alignment, Grey was fitted with a titanium plate to lock the joints into the correct position.

Further surgery was needed to remove spurs from Grey’s neck, but Dr Bray advised she should first have a biopsy on a suspicious lump on her throat.

The lump, which Brain and Life reported had previously been identified as a benign goitre, turned out to be a malignant tumour.

Diagnosed with thyroid cancer, the cancerous mass was soon removed.

Thyroid cancer

The NHS says thyroid cancer can lead to:

  • A painless lump or swelling in the front of the neck – although only one in 20 neck lumps are cancer
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Unexplained hoarseness that does not get better after a few weeks
  • A sore throat that does not get better
  • Difficulty swallowing.

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When diagnosed, thyroid cancer is typically treatable and, in many cases, it can be cured completely.

People who recover from thyroid cancer “will have a normal lifespan”, but there is a risk that the cancer can return.

At 62 years old, Grey’s cancer has not returned since 2010, but the is now at risk for other tumours.

Cancer Research UK says cells become more damaged over time, meaning there is a higher risk for developing cancer.

“One in two people will get cancer in their lifetime,” says Cancer Research UK.

“One of the main reasons for this being that people are living longer. Half of all cancers are in people over the age of 70.”

Leading a healthy lifestyle is still one of the best preventative measures against cancer development.

Jennifer Grey starred in Dirty Dancing, which is showing on Saturday, January 7 at 4:30pm on channel 5.

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