The physical symptoms and side-effects reported by patients treated for early breast cancer with surgery (S), (breast conservation or mastectomy), radiotherapy (R) and chemotherapy (C) are reported. As part of a large quality-of-life study, eligible patients were invited to complete a questionnaire at three and 12 months after treatment for early breast cancer. Symptoms 2 weeks after surgery were retrospectively collected at the 3-month questionnaire. Comparing the commonly used different therapy combinations (S, S + R, S + C and S + R + C) we found the only loco-regional symptom to show a significant difference between these groups was chest tightness (P < 0.001). Both anxiety about attending for and discomfort during C were significantly higher than during R (P < 0.00005 and 0.00001 respectively). We found that the addition of R and, or, C to S resulted in surprisingly little variation in physical side-effects.