Caring and cancer nursing: framing the reality using selected social science theory Despite the recent interest in caring for both academic and clinical nursing, the theoretical basis of this concept may appear somewhat elusive as the research and debate vary widely in their focus. As a result, the available literature may fail to consider the specific contextual issues which characterize caring as it is understood across different health care settings. Consideration of theory from disciplines close to nursing, it is suggested, may be useful in understanding the nature of such ‘real world’ caring. In this discussion the concept of caring within cancer nursing is explored by drawing on a number of social science and nursing sources. It is known that cancer provokes unique caring demands for nurses practising in this area. By examining the context of cancer, it is argued that effective caring deserves to be recognized as an important clinical variable which can influence a diverse range of issues such as patient satisfaction or therapeutic outcome. It is suggested that other nursing specialisms should also explore the psychosocial dimensions of caring in relation to their own role.