The traumas of diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer are well researched and generally addressed in care. While women with breast cancer continue to identify the need for better communication with physicians, studies to date have not investigated how the process of communication between physicians and women with breast cancer actually unfolds. This phenomenological study therefore explored how women with breast cancer experience patient-physician communication to gain a greater understanding of effective approaches. Interviews of a purposeful sample of 11 women within 6 months of initial diagnosis or recurrence of breast cancer were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim and analyzed using inductive interpretation. Themes and patterns of positive and negative experiences emerged. All experiences began with the woman's feeling of vulnerability. In positive experiences, information sharing and relationship building were inextricably linked components of a working relationship which was at the same time affective, behavioural and instrumental. This experience, in turn, influenced the woman's experience of control and mastery of the illness experience, and their experience of learning to live with breast cancer. Findings illuminate the importance of comprehensively patient-centred, working relationships. Several specific techniques to enhance effective communication are identified.