In a retrospective survey we interviewed 53 patients with respect to side effects of adjuvant therapy for breast cancer. All of them had undergone modified mastectomy and were randomly assigned to either chemotherapy, irradiation or a combination of both. Standardized questionnaires concerning the side effects and semi-structured, focusing counseling talks were the methods used in questioning the patients. Patients named significantly more side effects of severe and extreme intensity with chemotherapy, and especially in the group given combination therapy, where chemo- and radiotherapy could be directly compared by the patient. The experience was particularly threatening when several side effects occurred simultaneously. Different psychological aspects and visualisation of systemic and local side effects are discussed with respect to the patient's ability to cope with adjuvant therapy. Consequences for routine care are: continuous explanatory talks about side effects throughout the whole process, muscle relaxation and interdisciplinary cooperation.