This paper describes the application of an empirically-derived psychosocial assessment for use in advanced cancer. The patient population selected for this study was those patients no longer pursuing aggressive antitumour treatment, and the focus of care was on management of major symptoms and complications, and psychosocial support of the patient and family. The physical, cognitive, social and emotional dimensions were the framework for the assessment of both patient and caregiver functioning. Through this assessment of all patients admitted to our inpatient palliative medicine unit, care needs were identified and psychosocial interventions planned. The results of 150 assessments are reported, as well as observations of the process, implications for psychosocial care and modifications of the assessment based on this experience.