BACKGROUND: This article deals with one of the themes from interviews in a larger qualitative study about cancer patients' perceptions of good caring. It is widely recognized today that patient centred care is important. Patients' values and perceptions must be acknowledged in order to make care evidence based and to meet the demands of quality improvement processes. AIM: The aim was to get insight in patients with cancers' perceptions of the importance of being respected as partners and share control of decisions about interventions and management of their health problems and the reasons behind their wishes. METHOD: Giorgio's scientific approach to phenomenology was used. Twenty cancer inpatients with various cancer diagnoses at different stages and with different prognoses were interviewed. The sampling was purposive. ETHICAL ISSUES: Permission to carry out the research was given by a Regional Committee of Research Ethics in Western Norway and the data collection followed the guidelines of the Data Inspectorate of Norway. MAIN FINDINGS: The units of meaning identified could be clustered into three themes with significance for patient centred care from patients' perspectives: (1) empowerment (being respected, listened to, given honest information, being valued); (2) shared decision making about the treatment of the disease (discussing the treatment, but letting the doctor decide in the end); and (3) partnership in nursing care. CONCLUSION: Health care professionals can practise patient centred care by treating patients with respect, giving honest information, making them feel valued as persons and by inviting them to take part in all decisions about their daily life and care. However, cancer patients' desire to make decisions about their treatments must not be taken for granted. Doctors must find out the extent to which each patient wants to participate and then give the necessary information.