Patients with cancer suffer from a multitude of symptoms. Effective treatment strategies are available for a number of the common symptoms. A major reason for inadequate symptom relief is lack of effective symptom assessment. Accurate assessment of symptoms is necessary before any treatment can be undertaken. Although there are many complexities involved in the assessment of symptoms, simple, effective tools are available for identification and scoring of symptoms in clinical practice. This review describes recent advances in the study of symptom assessment in cancer patients. Several common symptoms are presented individually, followed by an overview of efforts addressing the assessment of multiple symptoms. Also, new tools in the evaluation of symptoms, including computer-based questionnaires, are discussed.