Genomic instability is a hallmark of cancer that leads to an increase in genetic alterations, thus enabling the acquisition of additional capabilities required for tumorigenesis and progression. Substantial heterogeneity in the amount and type of instability (nucleotide, microsatellite, or chromosomal) exists both within and between cancer types, with epithelial tumors typically displaying a greater degree of instability than hematological cancers. While high-throughput sequencing studies offer a comprehensive record of the genetic alterations within a tumor, detecting the rate of instability or cell-to-cell viability using this and most other available methods remains a challenge. Here, we discuss the different levels of genomic instability occurring in human cancers and touch on the current methods and limitations of detecting instability. We have applied one such approach to the surveying of public tumor data to provide a cursory view of genome instability across numerous tumor types.