The aim of this study was to assess the cancer nursing research papers published in the past decade; identify their characteristics in terms of country of origin, participants, settings, diagnostic foci, and methodologic choices; and evaluate their quality. A systematic review was carried out of all published papers in the Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature between the years 1994 and 2003, using the keywords "cancer," "nursing," and "research." A total of 619 papers met inclusion criteria and were evaluated by 5 researchers. Almost half the papers were derived from the United States (49.1%), followed by the UK, Sweden, Canada, and Australia. In more than half of the published papers (52.2%), health professionals (mostly nurses) were the studies' participants. Also, much of the published research used patients with mixed diagnosis, or patients with breast or hematologic cancers. Two-thirds of the studies were quantitative, whereas most studies were descriptive in nature. The quality of both quantitative and qualitative studies was low, with only a small percentage meeting the highest quality criteria. Studies reporting funding and those published in journals with an impact factor showed a higher quality score than those not reporting funding or not published in journals with an impact factor. Cancer nursing research is still in a developmental stage, although it has made a considerable contribution to the evidence base of the discipline. A number of issues need to be tackled before we improve our output, such as organizational or workforce issues, infrastructure support, funding, and methodologic challenges.