Cancer is a general term which applies to a broad spectrum of malignant diseases. For most patients, the diagnosis of cancer evokes images of intractable pain, mutilation, and impending death. Many of these feelings are derived from distortions of one's experiences with relatives or friends, or are based on misconceptions or myths about the disease itself. Fortunately, technologic and therapeutic advances have created a more optimistic future for the cancer patient. Health care teams, specializing in oncology, are defining and attending to the special needs of cancer patients. They are developing cancer management profiles for each patient which involve not only the primary diagnostic and therapeutic aspects of the disease but also its secondary effects on physiologic and psychologic processes. The purpose of this primer is to function as a general guide for managing all stages of cancer-from the early curable tumor to advanced metastasis. Therapy for such patients may require surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of modalities including immune therapy. This text will focus on cancer care and the role of the staff in the following general areas: (1) the communication of the diagnosis and the characteristics of the disease; (2) the application of the therapeutic modalities; (3) the management of secondary symptoms such as pain; and (4) the development of support services such as psychological counseling.