BACKGROUND: Current palliative care tools do not address distressing chronic symptoms that are most relevant to cystic fibrosis. METHODS: A CF-specific structured assessment based on a primary palliative care framework was administered to 41 adolescents and adults with CF. Descriptive and correlational analyses were conducted. RESULTS: Patients reported numerous physical and psychological symptoms (mean of 10 per patient), with psychological symptoms rated as more distressing. Anxiety (34%) and depression (44%) were prevalent and correlated with distress attributable to physical symptoms and difficulty with CF self-management, but did not correlate with disease severity. CONCLUSIONS: Individuals with CF, regardless of disease severity, face challenges managing symptom burden. Frequently reported symptoms are not consistently associated with distress, suggesting the importance of individualized evaluation. The CF-CARES (Coping, goal Assessment, and Relief from Evolving CF Symptoms) primary palliative care assessment model provides a framework for patients experiencing chronic symptoms to explore interventional options with their clinicians.