Aim: The aim of this study was to contribute to knowledge of nursing practice in the cancer care field by exploring cancer nurses' perceptions of conversations with cancer outpatients. Background: Current practice at cancer outpatient clinics in Norway is that nurses have planned conversations with patients and relatives as a follow-up after patient-physician conversations about assessment and medical treatment. Little is known about nurses' experiences of conversations in the ambulatory context. This study reports the experiences of initial patient-nurse consultations. Data were collected in 2006-2007. Design: A qualitative phenomenological hermeneutic study was performed. A purposive sample of 12 cancer nurses was selected for qualitative interviews where nurses were narrating about conversation experiences. Significance and meaning of conversation experiences were analysed within a hermeneutic perspective, inspired by Ricoeur. Anonymity and voluntary participation procedures were followed. Ethical approval for the study was obtained from the Regional Committee for Medical Research Ethics of the region. Findings: There were plots of nurses experiencing conversations as hard work, routine work or artistry. The nurses' conceptualizations of their roles as an information provider, or patient-centred caring role were rooted in rules of the nursing community or in humanistic caring ethics. Differences of nurses' perceptions and experiences of conversations are explained by different attitudes and role appreciations. Conclusion: Cancer nurses' role appreciation and meaning horizons are guiding their perceptions of patient-nurse communication. Feeling free to act in interplay with patients' voices, the patients' perspectives become foreground. There is an educational challenge here in terms of developing methods to help nurses to discover how their mental work and meaning horizons guide conversational practice.