By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Nearly half of young women are behind on a life-saving cancer screening. Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers because, with screenings, it can be found early when it’s treatable. However, doctors say the problem is too many women aren’t following the guidelines.

Women in their 20s are most likely to miss an important health test, according to new research.

“What they found was if you asked the question, ‘How many women that are between 21 and 29 have gotten Pap smear screening, according to the new guidelines?’ And the answer is roughly half,” said Dr. Robert DeBernardo.

The study looked at data on more than 47,000 women. Researchers found that while 64.6% of women between the ages of 30 to 65 were up-to-date on their cervical cancer screening, women in their 20s were lagging behind at 53.8%.

The guidelines for women in their 20s call for more frequent screenings, and change once a woman reaches age 30.

Doctors say the screening is especially important for young women in their 20s because cervical cancer, when caught early, is very treatable.

“Women need to be empowered to understand that they’re responsible, not just for their child or their husband or their parent or their sibling, they’re responsible for their own health,” said DeBernardo. “And going to the doctor should be all that’s required. If you show up to your family physician or your gynecologist, you should get the adequate screening.”

Doctors say one of the reasons for the discrepancy between age groups in getting Pap smears could be a result of the new guidelines being somewhat confusing for patients and health care providers.

The most recent guidelines say women ages 21 to 29 should get a Pap smear every three years. Women 30 to 65 can get the screening every five years,

Stephanie Stahl