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Erlanger High Risk & Cancer Genetics Program


Erlanger East Hospital
1635 Gunbarrel Road
Building C, Suite 300
Chattanooga, TN 37421

Improving Cancer Treatment and Screening

The Erlanger High Risk & Cancer Genetics Program identifies and manages individuals with genetic predispositions to developing cancer, including those with an increased risk due to ancestry, family history or personal risk factors. We provide a range of diagnostic and support services including:

  • Cancer Risk Assessment Counseling
  • Hereditary Cancer Risk Assessment
  • Genetic Testing

Cancer is a common disease with complex causes, many of which are not completely understood. Advances in cancer genetics have led to the identification of genes that, when altered, cause a significantly increased risk for certain cancers. Although most cases of cancer are not due to single, inherited gene alterations, approximately 5-10% of cancers are hereditary.

Some of the features often seen in hereditary cancer syndromes include:

  • Cancer occurring at younger ages than usual
  • Several relatives with the same or related cancers
  • More than one type of cancer in the same individual
  • Individuals with rare cancers, such as male breast cancer

In families with an inherited susceptibility to cancer, not all members of the family are at the same risk of developing cancer, and the risk may be increased for more than one type of cancer. Genetic testing and counseling can help individuals and families better understand their cancer risks and the available options for cancer screening, risk reduction, and genetic testing (when appropriate).

Are you at an increased risk for cancer?

This HIPAA-compliant virtual chat will gather your personal and family history to help identify any genetic predispositions you may have to developing cancer. If we find that the results of your questionnaire require further conversation, a nurse navigator will contact you to walk through the results and discuss next steps. By shedding light on any cancer risk, we are able to make informed decisions about your health and focus on risk-reduction strategies for cancer prevention and/or early detection.

Tailored treatment for patients with cancer

Genetic test results can potentially affect a patient’s surgical management and other treatment options. For example, a woman with newly diagnosed breast cancer who is a candidate for genetic testing may learn from her genetic test results that she is at an increased risk for a second breast cancer. This may help determine what kind of surgery is most appropriate for her current diagnosis, in order to minimize future risk.

Better screening for those with a family history of cancer

Genetic test results showing an increased risk for certain cancers could lead to changes in a person’s cancer screening regimen. This may include performing certain screening tests more frequently and beginning at an earlier age. For example, if a person is known to have an alteration in a gene that puts them at a higher chance of colon cancer, it may be recommended that they have colonoscopies every year or two starting in young adulthood. In some cases, there may be medication or surgical options to lower the risk of cancer.

Our Team

Nancy Lynae Cheeks, FNP-C
McKenzie Smartt, NP-C, CGRA
Cancer Genetics Nurse Practitioner

Katie Viola, BSN, RN, CGRA
Katie Viola, BSN, RN, CGRA
Breast Health and Genetics Nurse Navigator

Wendy Firestone, BSN, RN, OCN
Wendy Firestone, BSN, RN, OCN
Oncology Nurse Navigator

Kathy Bonse, LPN Clinical Nurse
Kathy Bonse, LPN
Clinical Nurse