PURPOSE/OBJECTIVES To determine the scientific basis for the nursing care given to individuals undergoing radiation therapy, identify patient needs, and develop recommendations for care delivery based on these findings. DATA SOURCES Scientific literature dating from 1993 to June 1997. Articles of recognized importance and those cited repeatedly were included, dating back to 1977. DATA SYNTHESIS Articles included in this review investigated patient-information needs, psychosocial reactions, self-care, side effects, and sexual dysfunction. The weight of the scientific evidence varies in the included studies. CONCLUSIONS The findings provide a foundation on which future studies can build. Additional conceptual work and resolution of methodologic issues are needed for research in this area to guide future practice. IMPLICATIONS FOR NURSING PRACTICE Patients receiving radiation therapy often experience side effects and complications as a result of treatment. The scientific literature suggests that patients need information about their treatment, general emotional support, and practical help with side effects. A need exists to substantiate radiation nursing care practice using the literature and to create contemporary studies to enhance practice.