In the context of a large study of effective and ineffective cancer care communications from the perspective of patients with cancer, the authors documented the pervasiveness of the desire for human connection. Analyzing accounts from 200 patients with diverse cancer experiences, they concluded that, while anonymity is generally antithetical to a comfortable cancer care encounter, there are wide variations in what it means to ‘be known’ in a meaningful way. In this discussion, a description of the dynamics of being known and not being known within the cancer care encounter is presented, and a range of variations considered. By illuminating the manner in which communication influences human connection within the cancer care context, the findings of this study challenge some current research directions and propose alternative conceptualizations that might better orient future inquiry to enhance practice. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.