• The importance of information giving has been recognized and promoted in political, ethical and professional arenas and this has ultimately resulted in the publication of a vast amount of literature relating to the subject.
• This literature review considers the functions of patient information and the factors influencing information seeking for patients who have been diagnosed with cancer.
• Methods of providing information are discussed and the nurse’s role in information giving is examined.
• A number of core problems are highlighted in relation to information giving. These problems, and possible reasons for them, are subsequently critically analysed.
• Finally, the literature relating to information needs of patients with cancer is evaluated and five key needs identified.