Patients who present with late stages of cancer often have complicated medical and psychiatric problems which are labeled as 'maladaptive delay or denial.' In some of these patients, psychiatric problems have either contributed to the delay in medical presentation for care or have interfered with treatment of the late stage cancer. The authors review some of the factors that contributed to delay and noncompliance in a series of patients with cancer who were evaluated by the psychiatric consultation service of a university hospital. Specifically, psychoses and cognitive impairment played a major role in delay and noncompliance. The authors discuss recommendations for management of such patients, and suggest that clinicians often benefit from the assistance of the psychiatric consultant as part of the treatment team. Multiple resources and multiple types of intervention are needed in order to help such patients negotiate the clinical environment.