Information generated using outcome measures to measure the effectiveness of palliative care interventions is potentially invaluable. Depending on the measurement tool employed the results can be used to monitor clinical care, carry out comparative research, provide audit data or inform purchasing decisions. However, the data collected can only ever be as good as the method used to obtain them. This review aimed to systematically identify and examine outcome measures that have been used, or proposed for use in the clinical audit of palliative care of patients with advanced cancer. Database searches were performed using MEDLINE (1991-1995), CANCERLIT (1991-1995), Healthplan (1985-1995), and 'Oncolink' on the internet. Further measures were located with the assistance of other professionals working in palliative care. The criteria for the inclusion and assessment of measures were a measure assessing more than one domain and a target population of advanced disease or palliative care Forty-one measures were identified, 12 of which satisfied the inclusion criteria. These contained between five and 56 items and covered aspects of physical, psychological and spiritual domains. Each measure meets some but not all of the objectives of measurement in palliative care, and fulfils some but not all of our criteria for validity, reliability, responsiveness and appropriateness.