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.