Guidelines are important tools in relation to patient treatment and care in oncology. They are systematically developed statements to assist practitioner- and patient-decisions about appropriate health care for specific clinical circumstances. They are needed because of unexplained and inappropriate variations in clinical practice patterns, different cancer treatment outcomes, further limitations in resources affecting administration of high quality health care, difficulties of integrating rapidly evolving scientific evidence into daily clinical practice, guidance for involved stakeholders and quality control. A guideline development programme should be inclusive, transparent, consultative, evidence-based and adhering to internationally recognised standards of practice such as the AGREE Collaboration. There should be an implementation plan to ensure that guidelines are implemented in daily clinical practice since they have an important influence on cancer outcome. This article reviews the need, development, implementation, adherence and outcome of guidelines. (BELG J MED ONCOL 2012;6:112–117)