Symptom control has become increasingly recognized as an important goal in patient care. In this article, advances in symptom assessment, and various definitions of symptom improvement are reviewed. Theoretical concepts underlying symptom control and clinically significant change are presented, as well as the role of symptom control as an endpoint in clinical trials. Symptom control is then surveyed in two broad categories for selected symptoms. The first area is therapy related symptoms, secondary to chemotherapy, radiation, hormonal therapy, and surgery. Symptoms reviewed include chemotherapy related mucositis, emesis, fatigue; hot flashes; and radiation related dermatitis, xerostomia, and mucositis. The second area is palliative oncologic approaches to disease-related symptoms. Results in palliative chemotherapy, palliative radiation therapy, cancer pain, and lack of appetite are summarized. Areas requiring further research are noted. Findings are presented in both a clinical and research context to help guide the reader with interpreting symptom control studies.