Little is known about the need for palliative care among advanced cancer patients who are not in specialist palliative care. The purpose was to identify prevalence and predictors of symptoms and problems in a nationally representative sample of Danish advanced cancer patients. Patients with cancer stage 3 or 4 from 54 hospital departments (n = 1630) received the EORTC QLQ-C30 questionnaire. Mean scores were calculated according to the scoring manual and in addition a 'symptom/problem' and a 'severe symptom/problem' was defined and calculated. Multiple logistic regression was used to identify predictors. In total, 977 (60%) patients participated. The most frequent symptoms/problems were fatigue (57%; severe 22%) followed by reduced role function, insomnia and pain. Age, cancer stage, primary tumour, type of department, marital status and whether the patient had recently been hospitalized or not were associated with several symptoms and problems. This is probably the first nationally representative study of its kind. It shows that advanced cancer patients in Denmark have symptoms and problems that deserve attention and that some patient groups are especially at risk.